Director: Jee-woon Kim
Starring: Arnold Schwarenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whittaker. Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander
Written by: Andrew Knauer.
Running Time: 107 mins
Release date: 24th January 2013
Arnie’s back! Well, he hasn’t been too far away and has already guest starred in both The Expendables movies as well as Around The World In 80 Days and Welcome To The Jungle but I guess they mean a starring role (although that is somewhat questionable here too). Anyway, he’s back and so is the action, violence and comic relief that he promises us every time he stars in a movie. Yes, there is action. Yes, there is violence (a lot of violence). Comic relief? Not as much. Still we must rejoice for the King of the Popcorn Fodder has returned from his Governorship and has taken his place on his throne. By judging this, I don’t mean a large gold one but the porcelain kind.
Gabriel Cortez, the leader of a drugs cartel, is heading to death row when he escapes and is heading for Mexico. FBI agent John Bannister wants him caught immediately but it’s going to be tricky as Cortez, driving a Corvette ZR1 (this is important) is an excellent driver and is always one step ahead of the Feds. Not bothering with the border, he has sent ahead of him a team to build a bridge across a canyon for him to become free of American law. First he has to go through the sleepy little town of Sommerton, where former narcotics cop Ray Owens, is the sheriff. Even though warned by Bannister, Owens isn’t going to let a drugs king come to his town without a fight…
And so we have the set up for a final 30 minutes of so of explosions, shooting, shouting, blood, guts and some pretty lame one liners that, if delivered by Arnie in the 80s, would probably been amusing. Instead, we have the new and improved version, all mahogany stained and Presidential whose acting skills, which frankly weren’t that brilliant, have gotten even worse. Arnie was the master of the one-liner but here they fall flat. Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s because the rest of the script is so dire it all sounds like one-liners.
Director Jee-Woon Kim is a skilled film maker. He has given us some pure delights in the past like, The Good, The Bad and The Weird and the spooky A Tale of Two Sisters. For his first Hollywood film he must have thought he had been given a gift with the Gov on board. And to give him his credit, the action scenes are well handled, brutal as some of them are. When it comes to getting his actors to deliver their lines, maybe something got lost in translation.
The film feels like one big advert for Corvette. We get to see it flying around the countryside from all kinds of angles as great speed, managing to even carry another car on it’s bonnet. This is an amazing car. But I wasn’t watching an advert, I was watching an action film and it seemed to me that someone had edited in these sequences to pay for the rest of the film. Nothing wrong with a bit of product placement. Most movies do it. I just thought that maybe it should have had top billing instead of Scwarenegger because it seemed to be in the film more.
And so we get onto performances. Arnie is, well, Arnie and Johnny Knoxville is cleverly cast as a local hick with the IQ of a shoe size (and in a clever piece of contrivance, he just happens to own a museum devoted to weapons…might come in handy later!). Forest Whittaker, the actor who won an Oscar playing Idi Amin, is reduced to delivering long speeches about Cortez’s driving history that, frankly, if you were in the same room listening, you’d question why he’s telling you all this?
So once the long build up to the inevitable gunfight at the end, the violence is turned up and we get close ups of people’s brains being blown out, bodies exploding and the oh-so predictable finale. What was seriously worrying for me, was the screening I saw, the audience were belly laughing to the point of over-exaggeration at some pretty sick things and I started questioning my own sanity. Now you might accuse me of being snobbish and elitist after years of writing about movies, but I, like the rest of society, enjoy a mindless piece of popcorn nonsense. I just feel extremely concerned that the rest of the world are so de-sensitised by violent acts that they find them funny? And trust me, they are not!
If this had been starring Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal, this would have been a direct-to-DVD affair but because it’s Arnie’s big comeback, it is taking up space in the multiplexes that other, far superior films could be playing. Yes, the action scenes are good and if you like your films noisy and nonsensical you will probably love it. Personally, I think it’s time for Arnie to hang up his guns and…oh hell, he has a host of new projects coming up. Let’s hope they are better than this.