What Went Wrong With… The Last Stand & The Action Genre?

An image of an atomic bomb detonating in Los Angeles as viewed from Hollywood Sign, a parody of the Action genre by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

The Last Stand is a film which wishes it was made in the ’80s or ’90s, a time when contrived characters and prejudicial stereotyping was accepted. Watching this film in the present day however, just goes to show how outdated the classic “Action Movie” template has become. In the past when foreign bad-guys were portrayed (German terrorists in Die Hard or Islamic terrorists in True Lies for example), they were played as equal rivals or likeable adversaries. Movies like True Lies even went as far as having a “good guy” who was the same ethnicity as the antagonists (even though the character Faisil was ethnically miscast). These days when similar ingredients are added to a film, it just seems like a team of script editors, advisors, and test-screenings have shaped the finished product so not to offend anybody in a climate heaving with immigration and war-related issues. The end result however, as is the case with The Last Stand, is a juxtaposed bundle of elements that neither gel together or sufficiently entertain.

Having a Sheriff in a small town who’s name is “Ray Owens” (but who has an Austrian accent) in the ’80s would be glazed over. In 2013, this character has to mention that he is a foreigner (which still doesn’t explain the English-American name). Even in the final encounter with the bad-guy (a border-crossing, South-American, drug kingpin – yes you read that correctly), he utters the arse-clenching line “people like you give us immigrants a bad name”. I almost threw up my popcorn.

Added to this mix of puke and politics are the age-old concoctions of the “I’m too old for this” lead character (yawn), a comic relief (yawn), a bumbling rookie (another yawn), and finally an Iraq War vet (yawn yawn yawn). This contrivance is partnered with a piss-poor script in which lines like “Welcome To Summerton” are inserted as potential “Hasta La Vista, Baby” style quotables. The writer is sadly mistaken however, as film quotes are not created intentionally, and in the case of The Last Stand, no line is worth uttering ever again.

We the audience, can now see tired clichés a mile off and are savvy to audience-grabbing affectations. In an educated and well-versed world, we can see most Hollywood Action films for what they truly are: pro-American and anti-the-rest-of-the-world. Maybe it was because I was young and naïve, but I didn’t notice the xenophobia in the ’80s and ’90s. Either that, or talented directors like John McTiernan and James Cameron made the Action genre a well-rounded and fun place to be.

In contemporary Hollywood, all attempts are made to sell the idea of America as the Action Hero it wishes it was. In The Last Stand however, this is almost laughable. By choosing an American automobile as the main plot-device, when all common sense tells us that if someone required a fast super-car; America would be the last place they’d look, this only exacerbates the bullshit already on show. The Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 (which in the movie is described as the greatest car in existence) is another flag-waving nod to all things American. Maybe if Cortez the drug-lord had stolen a Bugatti, the plot may have been believable and he might have got away.

Add all these aged elements together and you get an average Action movie which is more corny than the Chevy-on-Chevy car chase through a cornfield toward the end of the film. And like High-Fructose Corn Syrup in American food; the film and genre itself is now pumped with more unwanted ingredients as to make another helping unpalatable.

If anyone thinks that these kinds of Action movies are dying out, you’re wrong. The recent poster for upcoming Anti-North Korean Olympus Has Fallen (an Action film which regurgitates Die Hard and then packages it up in a hideously patriotic plot filled with worn out clichés) shows the puke-worthy tag-line “We Are Never Stronger Than When We Are Tested”. Hollywood, like a late bus, is even doubling-up on this lame concept. Just as it did with meteor disaster movies in the 1998, it sees fit to give us two of these pointless movies; with the upcoming and completely uncalled-for White House Down. This idea of “only one American man can save us against a foreign enemy” seems so out of sync with the public, that it’s anybody’s guess why Hollywood would hark back and greenlight such inferior and offensive recreations.

Please Hollywood: move on and get some new ideas. If we wanted to keep the Action genre stagnant, we would still be watching swashbuckling adventures with Douglas Fairbanks. Give cinema-goers something fresh if you want us to continue paying the exorbitantly high prices that you charge for a night out at the multiplex (although, the only reason I watched this crap was because I had some free tickets).

The Last Bland.

4 replies »

  1. You hit it spot on with this article. The action films is a mental masturbation of how America is #1 and everything American is great, and everything outside the country is just trash. Those movies succeeded in the 80’s because no one really questioned them, that’s why it’s a struggle today. You know in the 80’s movies like Blade Runner were not even successful until decades later, because the stuff that was successful were these movies full of derogatory stereotypes. It’s always some pro anti-Russian, anti-Hispanic, Anti-American Native, anti-African American, or Anti-Muslim crap they promote.

    I absolutely hate these movies for that reason alone. The message in the end is always the same “one American is better than an entire army of Spanish drug dealers” for example. It’s straight up mental masturbation for all the people that love screaming how great this country is.

  2. My comment relates specifically to America cinema – Straight to DVD, Luc Besson and Asia are on a roll right now.

    The prelude to the breakdown in American action movie started in what should have had been its evolution – a videogame called Metal Gear Solid. In that game , you had what was supposed to be your typical invincible Spec Ops action hero. Look behind the curtain, and you see his cynicism,, his PTSD, inability to relate to other human beings, level-headedness to the point of madness, and the fact that he is a puppet of the American Government utterly lacking in free will. In other words, the logical conclusion of what a Hollywood action hero really is.

    But , of course our hero defies this, both by the plot action and the game structure itself. In the game, it is better to help, not to hurt. The main villain team amount to superhero level invincible supersoldiers, instead of regular villains. The hero must depend on his friends and his team to get him through. By the end, he his able both to accept – and overcome – his destiny. We see this theme also in other movies like Michael Bay’s “The Rock”, where the heroes are everymen set against God-level antagonists. Also as important, the American Government is not portrayed as universally good. The antagonists in The Rock are soldiers who were tired of being tools of the American Government, and wanted their fallen comrades families to be properly compensated.

    Then The Matrix came out.

    Remember when dudes were going to rescue Morpheus , and dude showed his guns at the metal detector? Did he HAVE TO KILL all those security guards? Now we see the shift, as follows:

    1. A collection of everymen ain’t shit – they need a Chosen One, specifically, the viewer in his Power Fantasy. You are Special!
    2. No training or effort is needed. Your powers will either kick in, or will be downloaded into you when the time comes
    3. Killing is more important than saving lives. Compare the amount of people they pull out of the Matrix, compared to the amount that they kill. From Die Hard to Metal Gear Solid, more lives were saved than killed.
    4. Everything is now just a rewrite of that fucking Joseph Campbell Hero’s (ie , the viewer) Journey bullshit. Don’t these people (geeks) understand why Joseph Campbell is not taken seriously by professional mythologists?

    Not to worry. The Bourne Saga came to save us. Right?

    Well, everyone missed the point and just took the shakycam, and peak physical human being who is extremely determined and knows Kung-Fu tropes. So Bond imitates Bourne, does OK the first time around. Then Batman imitates Bourne, puts on Tom Waits voice, and fails. Three times. And we still have ShakyCam.

    Combine the narcissistic themes from The Matrix, misuse the techniques of Bourne, sprinkle in post 9/11 AmeroFascism (The Dark Knight) – and you get the modern American Action / Action-Thrillera

  3. The Last Stand was very disappointing and underwhelming, especially since it was directed by Kim Jee-Woon, who’ve made, in my opinion, several great South Korean films of various genres before.

    Have you seen Kim Jee Woon’s other films from South Korea like The Quiet Family, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, The Bad & The Weird and I Saw The Devil?

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