Archives for posts with tag: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Maggie

Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a rare opportunity to show his range as an actor in Maggie, which casts him as a Midwestern everyman who goes looking for his daughter (Abigail Breslin) after a zombie outbreak plunges the country into chaos. Unfortunately, when he finds her, she is already one of the afflicted. They have some time before the infection causes her to turn, however, and so he brings her home from the hospital for a few last days of vainly attempted normalcy, which naturally leads to painful tensions and scares as Maggie’s stepmother (Joely Richardson) begins to be frightened for her life. This is not Arnold the action lead, but Arnold the life-size yet heroic victim of circumstance whose situation dictates his reconciliation with reality. Those expecting a frenzied zombie apocalypse outing along the lines of 28 Weeks Later (2007) or World War Z (2013) will be disappointed, as Maggie offers little in the way of undead pandemonium. This unusual movie is best described as a somber family drama that also happens to have horror elements.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Maggie is:

2. Anti-Christian. Arnie’s wife has resorted to prayer, but heard only silence in reply.

1. Anti-family and anti-white. It is difficult for this viewer to watch an intelligent zombie film without searching for its allegorical significance. In Maggie, the plague has spread from the cities across the rustic heartland, suggesting a cosmopolitan cultural rot has infected the unspoiled folk of the plains and particularly their young. Maggie presents itself as a movie about the importance of family ties, with a reassuringly positive and tender depiction of a father; but this is really a genocidal study of European man reconciling himself to a future of zero posterity. With unintentional comedy, the family’s wise old Jewish physician, Dr. Kaplan (Jodie Moore), advises Schwarzenegger to do the sensible thing and shoot his daughter before she goes cannibal on him. Devotion to kin, in the context of Maggie’s apocalyptic zombie plague, becomes a liability and a threat to public health and order.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

More Schwarzenegger movies at Ideological Content Analysis:

Escape Plan

Expendables 2

Expendables 3

The Last Stand

Terminator Genisys

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT

Terminator Genisys

In a series of events with which the fans of the original Terminator will already be familiar, futuristic human resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends his own father (Jai Courtney) back through time to 1984 to save his mother before a Terminator cyborg (CG-rejuvenated Schwarzenegger) can kill her before she conceives the destined savior. Terminator Genisys then proceeds to overturn the audience’s expectations by having Reese arrive not in the 1984 of the first film, but in an alternate, already altered reality in which Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) has already been toughened by years of tutelage from “Pops” (geriatric Schwarzenegger), her own personal cyborg sidekick and father figure. Genisys, an Orwellian app to be launched in 2017, turns out to be the catalyst for the rise of the machines. The plot gets a lot more convoluted than this, and none of the time travel gobbledygook makes any sense; but fans of the franchise ought to enjoy it, its sinister purposes notwithstanding.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Terminator Genisys is:

3. Feminist. Sarah Connor in this movie is already a battle-hardened warrior woman. She resents Reese’s presumption that she is in need of his protection; and, in fact, it is she, not Reese, who utters the famous line, “Come with me if you want to live.”

2. Zionist. In the bleak future sampled in the exposition, humanity is confined in camps, given arm-barcodes, and exterminated. The term “final solution” even occurs in the script, so that human resistance in Terminator Genisys is understood subtextually to serve as the avatar of holocaust-fearing organized Jewry. Awakening European racial consciousness is equated with the quest of a totalitarian order of genocidal robot supremacy. This is the future that must at all costs be prevented. (Skydance Productions, which made the film, is run by Jews David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Jesse Sisgold.)

1. Pro-choice and anti-white. Jew-killing robot armies of whites will never be able to serve their purpose as long as they are never born. Terminator Genisys, consequently, is greatly concerned with promoting Euro-American childlessness. Thirty years of cultural collapse spanning the first film and this one can be read between the lines. Whereas, in the first entry in the series (made in the decade following the Roe v. Wade decision), the Terminator is an antagonist – an abortionist sent from an inhuman future to preemptively terminate Sarah’s pregnancy – this same soulless, robotic abortionist (or one with identical facial features) has, in Terminator Genisys, become a perverse father figure to Sarah, who enlists his help in killing her son, John Connor, who, Sarah discovers in this installment, has become a corrupted collaborator of Skynet in the yet-to-be. One of the major action sequences in Terminator Genisys features Sarah driving a symbolically passengerless school bus – signifying the white race’s decadent demographic decline – in her desperate rush to evade and/or destroy her own posterity. Once freed from the horror of her son’s bleak destiny, Sarah can enjoy sexual freedom and happiness with Reese because, as she puts it, “Now I can choose.” Additionally, the necessity in the film of preemptively assassinating a future savior can be read as expressing a Jewish wish that Christ had been aborted.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Expendables 3

Expendables 3 has hardly begun before the titular crew of mercenaries is massacring prison guards to liberate murderer Wesley Snipes. Typically for the series, the film simply expects the viewer to take for granted that the “good guys” would never shoot anyone undeserving of death. (Speaking of which, no Expendables review would be complete without the obligatory reference to how close to death some of these guys appear. “Relax. You’re gonna give yourself a stroke,” Stallone is warned before his upcoming adventure.)

This entry in the franchise does, however, evince more of something approximating a heart or emotional center in its plot involving renewed conflict between Stallone and treacherous ex-partner Mel Gibson, whose presence does much to enhance part 3. Gibson, now an arms dealer, has been deemed a war criminal, and CIA honcho Harrison Ford, in a role alluding to his turns as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), hires Stallone to retrieve him from Central Asia for trial at the Hague.

What ensues is tons of dumb fun, with better action scenes that dispense with the gallons of CGI gore on display in the previous outing. The viewer almost forgets what villains the heroes’ real-life counterparts are. A campy charm attaches itself, admittedly, to the wince-worthy scene in which Ford, providing air support for the beleaguered Expendables and obviously embarrassed by the unimaginative dialogue, half-heartedly mumbles, “Drummer’s in the house.” Expendables 3 is worth a rental for that moment alone.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Expendables 3 is:

7. Disingenously anti-torture. In one of the movie’s biggest unintentional laughs, CIA creep Harrison Ford complains that Gibson is responsible for the torture and killing of two of his men. As Gibson later says of Stallone’s character, “He thinks he’s the good guy.”

6. Pro-drug. There is a lighthearted feel to a scene in which Kelsey Grammer’s flying is impaired by his drunkenness. The Expendables get together to drink in celebration of a successful mission, while Dolph Lundgren, whose combat readiness is unaffected, just likes to drink for the picturesque hell of it.

5. P.C. Snipes objects to Stallone using “spook” with reference to a CIA agent.

4. Feminist. Ronda Rousey plays a tough-as-nails bouncer-cum-soldier whose looks conceal deadly fighting prowess. “Men,” she huffs with contempt before fatally shooting a man.

3. Anti-family. “If you’re lookin’ to go the family route, it’s the wrong job for you,” Stallone admonishes Rousey. “There are different kinds of family,” she replies. “And when my life is on the line, that’s my family fighting with me.” In other words, a gaggle of ragtag cutthroats is no less valid a pillar of personal and national stability than some old-fashioned assemblage of the biologically related.

2. Multiculturalist. In addition to two black Expendables and an Asian one, this third installment adds a Latino as a nod to that group’s demographic ascent, with Antonio Banderas providing some odd comic relief as a lonely acrobatic weirdo desperate for an excuse to machine-gun people.

1. Neoconservative. Like the other Expendables films, this third entry continues the work of conditioning the American male to accept overseas hellraising and mass murder as an exciting career opportunity, or at least as something deserving of their patriotic admiration. “I am the Hague,” Stallone says in triumph, alluding to his famous line from Judge Dredd (1995). In other words, the United States as the indispensable superpower and global force for gay, is exceptional in that it constitutes in itself – and even through the acts of its lowliest mercenaries – the world’s judge, jury, and executioner. “Very tribal,” Gibson says of the Expendables’ penchant for ritual murder – leaving the viewer to determine which Tribe he has referenced in his remark. As usual with this sort of movie, too, there is a dig at nationalist Russia, with Gibson spending some time there and giving the impression that Putin’s New Nazi Germany Russia is some sort of haven for evildoers.

The CIA no longer even cares if Americans know it conducts dirty wars through mercenary proxies. “This one’s off the books. I’m not even here,” says Ford, clearly thinking himself very cute. Those incorrigible Central Intelligence scamps! Oh, well – boys will be boys. Maybe a couple of decades from now, Hollywood will be making action movies celebrating the “ISIS” scam and the takedown of the evil Assad regime. “We killed a lot, but we saved more lives than you can possibly imagine,” Gibson excuses his days as a hired assassin for the Company. Whatever.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Expendables 2

Those left craving another helping of the limp-fisted one-liners, geriatric jollies and follies and apeshit aviation stunts, the genocidal body counts, computer-generated gore, and wanton devastation of exotic locales served up by the first Expendables film will find more of the same in this second wholly superfluous jaunt from the old folks’ hangar. So much blood splatters with such fetishistic tedium during the too-slick opening raid sequence that soldiers appear to be erupting with so much crimson jizz on themselves. Should viewers really be surprised when the credits come up and attribute the script to somebody named Richard Wenk? The self-lover’s screenplay has Stallone’s ragtag team of mercenaries venturing into Eastern Europe to stop satanic jack-of-all-villainies Van Damme from getting a cache of old Soviet weapons-grade plutonium into the hands of “the wrong people” – Muslims, presumably – and avenging a fallen comrade in the process.

Unfortunately, with such a surfeit of 80s dynamite nostalgia – with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others all crammed into Expendables 2’s star-studded cast – the result is a textbook case of a whole being less than the sum of constituent parts. The saturation of superpower, with heavyweights like Schwarzenegger and Norris confined to a couple of cameos, has the effect of mutual neutralization bordering on trivialization for all of the A-list actors involved, so that each of the heroes appears diminished and relatively dimmed. New female teammate Yu Nan, meanwhile, adds nothing of worth to the Expendables formula.

In its defense, The Expendables 2 does feature a hair-raising last-minute takeoff, a passable time bomb countdown sequence, and a brutal blade-and-chain-wielding climactic confrontation between Van Damme and Stallone. Norris, more defiantly deadpan than ever, has the only genuine laugh in the movie when he tells a campy snake attack anecdote, while the gratuity of Willis and Schwarzenegger swapping famous catch phrases with each other during a firefight holds a gay but admittedly irresistible fascination for children of the 80s – as does the sight of oldster Arnie effortlessly ripping the door off a car instead of simply opening it like a regular wimp. The CGI action sequences lack the tactile macho magic of the old days, and the forced attempts at human interest are similarly artificial, but such gripes will hardly dissuade those who already know this is their kind of film.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Expendables 2 is:

7. Anti-marriage. Jason Statham’s fiancée is a “half-cheat”.

6. Feminist. Unfeminine and consequently uninteresting Maggie (Yu Nan) is “combat-proficient”.

5. Pro-drug. Lundgren picturesquely drinks from a flask, while others opt for bottles of beer.

4. Pro-torture. “We’ll beat the truth out of ‘em,” Stallone says of a bar full of tough Slavic strangers, but surgical blades wielded with oriental prowess end up doing the job more efficiently.

3. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration. Stallone asks Maggie if she knows how to carve a turkey. In other words, all arrivals are welcome as long as they promise to ape the superficial rituals of Americanness.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Lundgren spends the movie slobbering over the homely Chinawoman, who, however (with an eye to Stallone), professes to “like Italian”. Even so, Lundgren would “really die for some Chinese.”

1. Neoconservative. As in Chernobyl Diaries, the Red Dawn remake, and the equally unworthy A Good Day to Die Hard, the Cold War’s weary specter is roused from its mothballs to put fear of the Russians back into American moviegoers. CIA operative Church (Bruce Willis) spooks in top-secret, mysterious ways, so better do what the gentleman tells you! Then, too, there is the omnipresent danger of weapons of mass destruction. Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) is a veteran of Afghanistan who expresses regret that his comrades (and dog) are “dead for nothin’”; but such brief dissimulation of antiwar sentiment serves as little more than a proprietary fig leaf for the Blackwater-as-Superman agenda of a movie determined to teach little American boys how cool it is to go off raising Cain in foreign countries in order to save and police the benighted regions of the world. One almost suspects that any disapproval Expendables 2 evinces toward the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan stems not so much from the insufficient warrant to go to war in the first place, but from the fact that America’s forces failed to splatter enough intestines loudly and brashly enough.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Escape Plan

Sylvester Stallone, who previously suffered and grunted to great effect in the excellent Lock Up (1989), gets thrown into the slammer again in Escape Plan as Ray Breslin, the Harry Houdini of incarceration. Breslin is so adept at egress from maximum security penitentiaries that he actually makes his living at it, hiring out his services to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and going undercover in different correctional institutions across the country to test their tightness. Breslin finds himself in the bind of his life when he agrees to try his hand at the Tomb, a CIA-commissioned, privately operated black prison “off the grid” and designed for containing dissidents the government would prefer to see “disappeared”. This time Breslin’s sentence is more than a game.

A gray-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger plays second fiddle to Stallone’s hero, but does add considerably to the fun of the film. He is given one moment of greatness equal to his larger-than-life persona when, in testosterone-mainlining slow motion, he levels a machine gun and mows down a gallery of disposable baddies. Jim Caviezel, unfortunately, is inadequate to the task of furnishing proper antagonism for the likes of the two leading titans. Sam Neill collects a paycheck for playing a tiny supporting role as the prison’s doctor, while Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson keeps it real representin’ the African-American computer genius community as Breslin’s loyal “techno-thug” Hush.

Escape Plan has exactly two things going for it: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The script is lame and about as original as the title, with typical lines of dialogue being, “You hit like a vegetarian”; “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, motherfucker!”; and, still more amazing, this brilliantly sarcastic coup of a zinger: “Have a lovely day, asshole.” Weaknesses aside, the story is fast-paced, the performances are fun, and the dynamite action combo of Stallone and Schwarzenegger will be a difficult one for fans to resist.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Escape Plan is:

7. Anti-tobacco. A guard’s routine of taking a smoke break causes him to be distracted.

6. Pro-miscegenation. The streets of New Orleans teem with interraciality.

5. Anti-Christian. Schwarzenegger, putting on a show of insanity for the guards, spouts religious nonsense in German. Stallone tears a page out of a Bible and burns it.

4. Anti-torture. Guards pummel Stallone and force water down Schwarzenegger’s throat with a hose.

3. Anti-neoconservative. The Tomb, with its savagery, high-tech surveillance, and disregard for citizens’ constitutional rights, serves as a microcosm of life in post-9/11 America. Giving the lie to the Islam-bashers, Muslim prisoners are violent only when they are provoked.

2. Anti-cronyism/anti-capitalistic. The Tomb is operated by “Blackwater rejects” who do the dirty work of corrupt, authoritarian governments and international bankers. “From a financial standpoint I like it,” Breslin’s business partner (Vincent D’Onofrio) says on hearing about the Tomb and the money he stands to make by cooperating with the CIA. Schwarzenegger is an anarchist or revolutionary of some sort who seeks to bring down the financial establishment.

1. Anti-state. The Tomb is administered by the significantly monickered Mr. Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who boasts, “In here you have no control over any part of your life, except your breathing.” Of interest, too, is the deindividuated design of the brutal prison screws, who wear S.W.A.T.-flavored get-ups and charcoal-black masks with Caucasian features. Could this be a commentary on the reality of life under fake black president B.O., whose ballyhooed skin color masks exactly the same opportunism that motivated his predecessors in office?

Michael Bay is a filmmaker famous for his slick style-over-substance approach to the medium, and in Pain and Gain, a vibrant, blackly humorous meditation on the American dream by way of an injection of style steroids gouged straight into the audience’s eyeballs, the Bay formula pays entertainment dividends.  Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, an ambitious bodybuilder with an unhealthy fixation on self-improvement.  He claims to approve of the meritocracy that has made America great, but unfortunately finds exemplars of Americanism in figures like Michael Corleone and Tony Montana.  Consequently, he sees crime and not legitimate business success as the most promising road to riches, and recruits fellow bodybuilders Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap oily Schlotzky’s proprietor Victor Kershaw (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) in the hope of getting him to sign over to them his home and all of his possessions.

Mark Wahlberg is intense as musclebound loser Danny Lugo, and Dwayne Johnson, who demonstrated a knack for comedy even as a professional wrestler, here delivers a hilarious performance to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s versatility as an action hero equally adept at goofiness.  As with much of Tarantino’s work, Bay’s film constantly runs the dangerous risk of glorifying or trivializing its subject matter by making its criminals such funny and charismatic characters.  The misadventures of Wahlberg and company are so exciting, fun, and involving that someone could almost forget that these likable bunglers, for all their charm, are really just murderers and thieves.  In the end, however, those who do wrong are punished in this grotesque and shockingly true crime story based on events that occurred in Miami in the mid-90s.  The use of period-faithful tunes from C+C Music Factory, Bon Jovi, and Coolio give an added nostalgic kick to this punchy, pleasantly gross, and perfectly edited dark comedy.

4.5 of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pain and Gain is:

11. Anti-gay.  Paul, seeing a warehouse full of gay sex toys, expresses discomfort with “homo stuff”.  He deals viciously with a gay come-on (see no. 4).  Danny makes a pejorative reference to “pickle-licking”.

10. Arguably anti-Semitic.  The oily, irascible Kershaw’s Star of David pendant hangs conspicuously as he prattles and makes a sleazy annoyance of himself at the gym.

9. Gun-ambivalent.  Men with criminal records have no difficulty buying weapons from an effeminate and masochistic gun dealer (and Stryper fan) who enjoys being stunned with a taser.  A Confederate flag hanging in his store is probably intended for this film’s purposes to associate gun ownership not with liberty, but with racism.  A woman attempts unsuccessfully to defend herself in her home with a gun.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  As in Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson plays the shameless tubby sexpot.  Other tubs of lard are featured in the film strictly for gross-out humor and audience derision, however.

7. Misogynistic.  Apart from one character, women are in the main represented in Pain and Gain as sluts and slobs.

6. State-skeptical.  Miami police are at first uninterested in investigating Kershaw’s story of how he was kidnapped and dispossessed, citing his Colombian origins as cause for skepticism.  They later admit their mistake.

5. Anti-drug.  Steroids render Adrian impotent.  Paul blows his cut of the loot on cocaine and starts to lose what limited wits he has.

4. Anti-Christian.  Paul’s religious beliefs, which vie with his cocaine problem for possession of his soul, make him susceptible to manipulation.  His professions of Christian devotion constantly clash with his criminal projects and outbursts of violent temper.  Furthermore, the judgmental attitude he derives from his faith finds expression in his belief that he might cure Kershaw of his Judaism.  A homosexual Catholic priest compliments Paul’s physique and tries to put the moves on him.

3. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Adrian, a black man, marries Robin (Wilson), a fat white woman, who recounts at their wedding how her racist grandfather had warned her against black men.  (Ironically, the grandfather’s advice proves to have been valid at least in Adrian’s case.)  Nasty interracial dancing disgraces the screen.  Kershaw, half Colombian and half Jewish, likes Cuban women.

2. Immigration-ambivalent.  Victor Kershaw is the old type of coarse but fiercely entrepreneurial immigrant who through his own talent and efforts has become wealthy.  Two Slav women are depicted as oversexed ditzes.  The fact that one of these entered the country illegally through Mexico highlights America’s border insecurity.

1. Capitalist.  The unsung protagonist of Pain and Gain is Kershaw, the self-made man who, while less handsome and likable than his victimizers, is in the right in seeking lawful revenge against Lugo and his collaborators.  Lugo believes in the American dream and understands that meritocracy plays a role in this; but like others who would redistribute wealth, he is motivated by envy and spite.  This derives from his mistaken notion that all people are equal at birth, the implication of which belief for his type of mentality is that unequal distribution of wealth must be some kind of injustice if two people’s apparently equal origins and efforts result in inconveniently unequal outcomes.  Ed Harris represents the private sector positively as a private investigator who comes to Kershaw’s aid when police fail to act on his client’s allegations.

[UPDATE (8/14/13): A Christian YouTuber offers his disapproving observations on Pain and Gain‘s detrimental cultural significance here.]

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story,” writer John Barth has said.  Not everyone can be Cary Grant or Arnold Schwarzenegger, however.  Real people tend to be more complicated, less successful, and make terrible mistakes that dog them for the rest of their lives – which can nonetheless be heroic within the context of their lives-as-films.  The ragged, damaged life of carnival stunt rider Luke Glanton is one such story of tragic heroism, and his film, appropriately, is as beautiful, messy, epic, haunting, and asymmetrical as is life itself.

Audaciously and frustratingly structured as a triptych, Derek Cianfrance’s new film The Place Beyond the Pines is really three interdependent stories, beginning with that of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), who as Handsome Luke and the Heartthrobs – his name echoing Paul Newman’s irrepressible, self-destructive rebel in Cool Hand Luke – risks his life on a regular basis for the amusement of strangers at carnivals.  When, during a sojourn in Schenectady, New York, he learns that one year previously a local waitress (Eva Mendes) conceived his child, Luke’s life is pitched into crisis as he yearns to play some part in the life of his infant son and the mother, who, however, is now involved with a black man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), who has adopted the child.

Luke Glanton immediately takes his place among the great character creations of the cinema, and Gosling is ideally cast to capture his combination of a wild, mythical quality with a naked humanity that touches the viewer from his first troubling, fascinating appearance onscreen.  Luke is a study in contradictions, of shadow and light, violence and love, with his brooding dark eyes and pretty blonde hair, his playboy looks and body scarred with tattoos telling the story of a lifetime’s worth of poor decisions.  A dripping dagger tear tattoo suggests both the sadness of the character and his mysterious criminal past.

Luke is absent after the first third of the film, replaced as protagonist by other, intersecting characters’ lives, but to tell too much about the stories in The Place Beyond the Pines would be to deprive the audience of the revelatory experience.  The succeeding segments of the film may not carry the same impact or immediacy of interest, but are definitely compelling, particularly insofar as these are informed and darkened or brightened in turn by Luke’s paternal and criminal legacy.  Flawed though it arguably is, The Place Beyond the Pines is a triumph for Gosling and Cianfrance, rich in atmosphere and unique music, and is one of the most striking films of the year – one that should be seen on the big screen while possible.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Place Beyond the Pines is:

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Luke’s son Jason (Dane DeHaan) gets high with the disgusting AJ (Emory Cohen), who also bullies him into stealing drugs for a party.  No definite judgment or consequences are attached to these behaviors apart from the threat of police interference and jail time, but the film does nothing really to glorify substance abuse – with, however, the possible exception of alcohol, when Luke’s old associate Robin (Killing Them Softly‘s Ben Mendelsohn, in a small but meaty role one wishes had been expanded) offers underaged Jason a beer in camaraderie.  Smoking, too, arguably receives an endorsement.

6. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn) – and yet surprisingly anti-wigger.  The revolting AJ, though a wigger himself, seems uneasy and put off by Jason’s mixed parentage.

5. Christian.  Luke has a tattoo of a Bible on one of his hands.  His religious views are never articulated, but one assumes that something approximating Christian morality motivates him to take responsibility for the child he has fathered.  Kofi attends church with Romina (Mendes) and sees to it that Luke’s son is baptized.

4. Anti-state.  Politicians are phony, opportunistic careerists, a mentality illustrated by one candidate’s itinerary cynically making room for visits to black churches.  Nor does the law apply equally when the perpetrator happens to be a politician or his relative.  Jason’s black market purchase of a pistol demonstrates the futility of gun control measures.

3. Family-ambivalent.  The film offers both positive and negative examples.

2. Pro-miscegenation/multiculturalist/pro-slut/pro-bastard.  Single mother Romina has no qualms about carrying on with two different men of different races while ostensibly committed to one.  Race realists and race deniers will, however, come away from The Place Beyond the Pines with totally different interpretations of the interracial triangle central to its story.  Progressives will see in Kofi’s relationship with Romina and his adoption of her bastard child a demonstration of multiculturalist harmony in application, with Kofi showing how a black man can do the responsible thing and raise a family, even one that is not his own, in a safe and loving environment.  Racially conscious whites will find in the triangle a horrific and repugnant allegory showing how the white man’s recklessness and poor management of his affairs have resulted in his thoughtless abdication of the future, with the disconcerting outcome that unworthy others will take and stain his office and bed and even father his descendents.

1. Anti-police/relativist.  The police, as typified by veteran Deluca (Ray Liotta), are corrupt and no better than the robbers and drug dealers they catch and whose families they harass.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has substandard luck with would-be blockbusters titled Last.  1993’s Last Action Hero, released a mere two years after the megahit Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is widely regarded as marking not only the end of Schwarzenegger’s reign at the box office and in audiences’ hearts and minds, but the demise of the larger-than-life 80s action film itself.  Now, in 2013, comes The Last Stand, a lively outing that ought to mark the muscleman’s triumphant return to action adoration, but which, alas, as it turns out, is just another relative flop.

Combining elements of High Noon and Vanishing Point, The Last Stand, with its southwestern flavor, brings Schwarzenegger full-circle in a way, considering that one of his earliest roles was in the western comedy The Villain.  Here Schwarzenegger is Ray Owens (sic), Sheriff of Sommerton County, Arizona, on America’s southern border.  His sleepy rural community is about to get more than its usual share of excitement when escaped drug cartel kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) hatches a plan to use Owens’s own unsuspecting town of Sommerton Junction as the end point of a sure-fire escape route to Mexico.  Making matters more difficult for federal and local authorities is the fact that Cortez is driving a futuristic and seemingly unstoppable thousand-horsepower Corvette.

The Last Stand is an unapologetically lightweight, nostalgic, high-testosterone crowd-pleaser, but no less pleasing for its lack of originality or depth.  Lukewarm box office notwithstanding, an Arnold Schwarzenegger gunplay-and-explosions vehicle – even a second-tier, self-consciously geriatric one – is something of a national treasure.  Schwarzenegger’s acting gives little evidence of having improved during his years in government, and may in fact have gotten worse; but nothing can mitigate the thrill of seeing this man in heroic action.

While he probably deserves a more iconic or physically imposing foe than lanky Eduardo Noriega or weird Peter Stormare (winner of this year’s Most Awkward American Accent Award), the supporting cast does much to enhance Schwarzenegger’s presence through humorous contrasts.  Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville are especially noteworthy in the comic relief department, and Forest Whitaker turns in an intensely invested performance as harried G-Man John Bannister.  The only thing The Last Stand may be missing is Schwarzenegger’s leading lady, as deputy Jaimie Alexander is too young to be the appropriate recipient of anything but his paternal affection.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Last Stand is:

6. Anti-drug.  Drug dealers, in the finest tradition of 80s action films, are the bad guys.

5. Pro-military.  An Iraq veteran ex-Marine is a key figure in the hometown defense.

4. Immigration-ambivalent.  Americans are reminded of their perilously porous border with Mexico when Cortez points out the irony of Owens trying to prevent him from returning to his own country when 12,000 Mexicans cross in the opposite direction every day.  “You make us immigrants look bad,” Owens tells Cortez.  It is unclear whether by saying “us immigrants” he identifies with the 12,000 mentioned by Cortez or only with the law-abiding variety.

3. Multiculturalist.  The Last Stand celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, Hispanics, women, Austrians, Asians, and dweebs.  Cortez, though the villain of the piece, represents Mexicans positively as a criminal mastermind and expert race car driver.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Eccentric gun collector Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) provides the firepower that allows the sheriff and his deputies to defend themselves against Cortez’s private army.  Notably, Dinkum offers a very useful “Nazi killer” machine gun he has kept in working order against the wishes of the government.  Elderly citizen Mrs. Salazar (Lois Geary) picks off one of Cortez’s mercenaries with her personal firearm.  Farmer Harry Dean Stanton is also admirable in attempting to defend his property with a shotgun.

1. Localist/traditionalist.  Sommerton Junction is a friendly, wholesome, peaceful place rather than the usual rustic nest of hateful Hollywood hicks.  FBI agent John Bannister underestimates the competence of the local sheriff’s department (significantly, an Arizona sheriff’s department).  He is humbled when Owens does his job for him and when the FBI is found to have been compromised by internal corruption.

In Shoot ‘Em Up, Hollywood gave audiences a new, health-conscious kind of action hero in Clive Owen’s gunman who chooses to gnaw on carrots rather than Clint Eastwood’s cigars.  Now Premium Rush continues and develops the healthy hero trend, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s courier Wilee riding a bike instead of tooling around in a pollution-and-noise-producing auto like the Batmobile or Mad Max‘s Main Force Patrol Interceptor.  The bicycle messengers of New York City, it turns out, actually lead perilously exciting lives and emerge as unsung heroes of sport and private enterprise while also menacing mainstream traffic.

Gordon-Levitt, who against the odds has left behind TV sitcom cutedom to break into mature, masculine lead roles in a major way this summer, stands a chance to become one of the action heroes of Generation Y based on his likeable turns in Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, and – we’re hoping – in his upcoming pairing with Bruce Willis in Looper, hitting screens in September.  Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee is a new kind of hero, a far cry from the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers of yesteryear; he’s philosophical, triumphing through (mostly) non-violent athleticism, split-second risk-taking, and hypothetical physics-informed bicycling strategy.

He needs everything in his physical and mental arsenal when he finds himself pursued across NYC by a bike cop and a crooked police detective villainously named Monday (Michael Shannon, who resembles a young Malcolm McDowell both facially and in intensity) in a feature-length chase setup that recalls Night of the Juggler‘s use of the city’s streets.  Like that film, Premium Rush never lets up and, in short, delivers what the title advertises.  5 stars.  Highly recommended entertainment.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Premium Rush is:

5. Multiculturalist.  Wilee receives much-needed aid from a multiracial horde of his bike messenger colleagues.

4. Pro-immigration.  Wilee’s “premium rush” delivery will help a Chinese mother bring her son to the U.S.

3. Multiply pro-miscegenation.

2. Anti-police.  Detective Monday is a vicious, corrupt murderer who abuses his authority.  Other police, even while well-meaning and simply trying to do their jobs, act as pesky antagonists toward the hero throughout the film.

1. Green.  Apart from the glorification of Wilee’s choice of transportation, NYC’s hybrid mass transit system also puts in a cameo.

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