2013 sees something of an '80s action icon renaissance as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis all step in to the firing line for new movies. For Schwarzenegger, his return - the blood-spattered action flick The Last Stand - comes after spending eight years as Governor of California. Arnie may have reinvented himself as a politician, but when it comes to movie stardom he's reassuringly still the same leading man we all know and love.
In The Last Stand, Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a sleepy US town on the Mexican border. It's the kind of role you'd expect an Unforgiven-era Clint Eastwood to inhabit - world-weary, solitary and hiding trauma from his past. With Arnie in the lead, however, this becomes a very different kind of proposition.
It's an all-guns-blazing bullet-fest as Sheriff Owens gathers together a motley crew - Luis Guzmán, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro and Zach Gilford - to barricade the town off from an escaped drug cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) who's racing to cross the border into Mexico.
A team of mercenaries led by Peter Stormare's Burrell are already embedded in the town to facilitate Noriega's passage, and their encounter with a local farmer (Harry Dean Stanton) - in the film's first big gasp moment - puts the wheels in motion for a clash between Ray and the cartel.
The Last Stand is a resolutely old school Arnie action flick. The one-liners are out in full force ("Welcome to Sommerton," he quips after unloading hundreds of gatling gun rounds), as are the explosive action set pieces and eccentric sidekicks. Chief of the latter is Johnny Knoxville's artillery enthusiast Lewis Dinkum, who arms the cops to the teeth to face Cortez.
The film, like Arnie's '80s and early '90s classics, deftly walks the line between wise-cracking humour and visceral action. The leading man may make reference to his advancing years, but he's still an emphatic and highly watchable screen presence.
South Korean director Jee-woon Kim sets the film up like a classic Hollywood western before unleashing an ultra-violent final act that plays to his lead's strengths. "This is boring. Get the big gun," says Burrell at one point. No line of dialogue better sums the film up than that; as soon as there's a risk of flatlining, Kim is quick to re-energize proceedings.
Forget the disappointing Expendables outings, The Last Stand is the Arnie comeback we've all been waiting for.