Saturday, June 14, 2014

Instant Action: The Last Stand (2013)

If you keep making movies is it really the last time you'll be standing?

Written By: Andrew Knauer
Directed By: Kim Jee-Woon

The Last Stand is not a complicated film. There's not a whole lot under the hood of Kim Jee-Woon's American directorial debut. That doesn't mean The Last Stand is a bad film, it's far from that in fact. This movie eschews any sort of deep thematics for pure action. It helps that said action is presented in dynamic fashion, but that's about what I expect from Woon-ssi. The Last Stand focuses almost exclusively on action. There's no character building, no real attempts at drama. The film does shoot for a few comedic moments here and there, but on the whole The Last Stand is a film that's only interested in providing action and thrills.

Whether or not the film provides action and thrills depends on what the person watching the film is looking to get out of said film. If a cinephile watches The Last Stand hoping for a great story or engaging character beats then they will be let down. That's not the film The Last Stand wants to be. The people who will enjoy The Last Stand are those who like a little spice in their life, the sort of people who dig it when action escalates to absurd levels. I'm one of those people, and that's probably why I ended up enjoying The Last Stand as much as I did.

The action in The Last Stand is that of escalation. Each action sequence is bigger than the previous one. As the action gets larger Woon-ssi's direction gets tighter. The car chase during the cornfield is a prime example of the way the South Korean export handles action in an engaging manner. When the chase starts off the camera keeps track of the two cars. We know where they are and what is going on. That all changes as the chase morphs into a cat and mouse game. The filming style becomes one of disorientation, because our drivers are disoriented and so must we be. Of course once the car chase comes to a climax the camera regains its centering effect. The big finale, both with the cars and the showdown on the bridge, is completely in focus because Woon-ssi is interested in providing concrete closure to the action scenes he has constructed.

The characters and the story in The Last Stand may not be that engaging. The action, however is very engaging. That's why the film puts all of its eggs in the action basket. The film is at its weakest in the few moments where it tries for drama or for extended bits of comedy. It's not that The Last Stand isn't funny, it's that too often the film overdoes its attempts at humor. Andrew Knauer provides some slick one liners, but the scenes keep going and the dialogue keeps trying to be funny to lessening degrees.

The Last Stand is far from a perfect movie. It falters in a few areas, but the overall package Kim Jee-Woon delivers is a fun bit of action film. I enjoyed the way the action was filmed and how the film hit its action elements hard. This is a step back for Woon-ssi, because he's a director capable of much more than a fun action film. Still, The Last Stand is an enjoyable film and it's not a disgrace to the catalog of its director. This isn't the film that people will remember Kim Jee-Woon for, but The Last Stand is a well made actioner, and sometimes that's all I really want.



Bill Thompson

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