Archives for posts with tag: Vanishing Point

Need for Speed

Breaking Bad’s bad boy Aaron Paul drives a quality action vehicle to victory in Need for Speed (2014), a superficial showcase for insane car anarchy that gets off to an inauspicious start, but soon delivers an unremitting series of spills and breakneck thrills, the obvious absence of frills notwithstanding. Need for Speed’s expository first ten minutes or so, establishing a multi-ethnic cadre of forgettable fist-bumping car freak buddies, is worth enduring to get to the inventive set pieces that will have viewers’ mouths hanging open in awe.

Need for Speed, with its references to Bullitt (1968), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), and Speed (1994), pays tribute to the long tradition of ante-upping automotive action extravaganzas, and also invites comparison to Vanishing Point (1971), with Michael Keaton assuming the charismatic commentator function that Cleavon Little performed in that film. Breaking Bad fans may miss Paul’s wiggerisms, but it is nice to see him cleaned up for a change. Imogen Poots, an unforgivable name for a lovely screen presence, lights up the screen with her blue eyes and smile as the romantic interest, while Dominic Cooper is adequately oily as the antagonist.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Need for Speed is:

5. Multiculturalist and pro-miscegenation. Obligatory.

4. Mildly feminist. “Never judge a girl by her Gucci boots.” Paul and a buddy, after assuming that Poots is just a blonde bimbo, are shocked to learn that she knows all about cars.

3. Pro-military. An Apache helicopter comes to Paul’s rescue in a deadly pickle.

2. Anti-police. Cops are a bumbling and antagonistic nuisance throughout. “Racers should race. Cops should eat doughnuts.”

1. Class-conscious. Rich hotshot Dominic Cooper goes unpunished after leaving the scene of fatal accident for which he is principally responsible. Keaton, in announcing the winner of the De Leon, emphasizes that “blue collar kid” Paul has beaten his social better. The added fact that Paul’s business has been foreclosed, indirectly through the villainy of Dominic Cooper, furnishes extra motivation to avenge his buddy’s death.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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.

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