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Movie review: Schwarzenegger back in action in ‘The Last Stand’

Casting the former governor of California as a small-town sheriff squaring off against a drug lord, “The Last Stand” puts Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the saddle as an action movie hero. But don’t expect any winking nods to his years in public office — this freewheeling vehicle is strictly concerned with cars, firepower and massive explosions.

Johnny Knoxville offers comic relief as the goofball proprietor of a back-road gun museum, which conveniently allows for an odd assortment of weapons to be used in the climactic battle.

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It’s that kind of movie.

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Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a former L.A. cop who left the big city for a sleepy Arizona border town where nothing ever happens. That is, until a drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) slips free from a federal agent (Forest Whitaker) in a stolen custom muscle car, with only Arnold standing between him and escape to Mexico.

Luis Guzman plays a bumbling deputy, Peter Stormare the main henchman and the mighty Harry Dean Stanton has a brief appearance as a crotchety local.

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“The Last Stand” marks the English-language debut of Korean director Kim Jee-Woon. Kim’s sensibility pulses through the film, though it’s toned down from his cult western “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” and certainly not as twisted and gruesome as his revenge thriller “I Saw the Devil.”

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Kim isn’t afraid to balance the action with eccentric humor — muscle cars barrel through a cornfield, Main Street becomes a Looney Tunes battleground and a loading-weapons montage is played for cheeky laughs. The obligatory “Arnold is old” gags are kept to a minimum.

“The Last Stand” may not herald a full-scale reemergence for Arnold the Action Star, but it’s clearly a step in that direction.

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In an age when even comic book adaptations have a dour seriousness about them, this is a movie content with just being good, old-fashioned fun.

mark.olsen@latimes.com

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‘The Last Stand’

MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout and language

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Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing: In general release

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