Arnie, here with Genesis Rodriguez (left), continues to stand tall.
THE LAST STAND (Kim Jee-woon). 107 minutes. Opens Friday (January 18). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
The Last Stand delivers inventive, energetic thrills for a couple of hours, and it makes Arnold Schwarzenegger a convincing action star at 65. What else could you possibly want?
The former Terminator moves stiffly and turns with some effort. But put him in the right situation - behind the wheel of a truck, maybe, or standing still while firing a great big gun - and it's as if no time has passed.
The premise is dead simple. Schwarzenegger's Sheriff Owens and his scrappy deputies face off against the small army of a fugitive Mexican cartel kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) bent on heading home through Owens's little Arizona border town. The supporting characters are efficiently drawn, and the movie engages with the idea of an aging hero more honestly than either of Sylvester Stallone's Expendables movies.
Far more important, though, is that director Kim Jee-woon takes the same demented pleasure in the laws of physics that he did in his knockout 2008 action-comedy, The Good, The Bad, The Weird. (He's even cast Johnny Knoxville as Song Kang-ho's character in that film, which is kind of brilliant.)
Every sequence plays like it could be the movie's climax; every firefight is imaginatively choreographed to play out on at least two different levels. An incidental bit of car-chase action between the villain's souped-up Corvette and two very large SUVs is ingenious in its simplicity.
This is all way more fun than the marketing would have you believe.