What do you get when you take one of the most promising Korean action directors (Jee-woon Kim; from I Saw the Devil and The Good, The Bad, The Weird) and get him to team up with Arnold Schwarzenegger (fresh off his stint as a politician) for his return to the big screen? Well a hot mess. But is it a fun hot mess?
Ray (Schwarzenegger) is an aged law man who’s had his time in the tough city and has decided to enjoy his days out in a small town on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. When he’s chilling out, maxing, relaxing, cooling on his day off… there seems to be something sinister brewing. The ostentatiously silly famed drug cartel leader, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), breaks from his transport and is off racing against some personal best time (or so he acts) to make it to the border in his modified super car. Two opposing forces seem imminent to meet.
Just like when I spoke of one of Arnie’s more famous films, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, he wasn’t the action star that we know today. He was the tank of action stars. When films didn’t need a hero that did 5000 things at once, but rather an immovable force that filmmakers could throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at and we as an audience would believe that he was stronger than it. This is a return to that hero and while even at times when the action gets heated we see him admit to his creaking bones and moving parts that may not work just as they used to, it definitely fits the bill of a Schwarzenegger movie.
Where this movie thrives is in it’s side characters. From Lewis (Johnny Knoxville) — who most have picked out as the Kang-ho Song (The Weird, from The Good, The Bad, The Weird) stand in — to Burrell (Peter Stormare) who’s the cowboy with the most ridiculous Texan accent that I can’t stop staring at because I know he’s Eastern European and is always playing Russian in films for that reason. Is Burrell Russian? Is he playing a Russian putting on a Texan accent? I don’t know, but it works either way.
The first hour of this film plays heavily on the crime and not on the action of the crime. We have a few stand out moments — “get off my property” — and those are great, but what makes the film better for it is that there’s never a complete lull in the film. Some can point to Schwarzenegger’s usual stiff as a board of ply wood acting and line delivery and that the writers didn’t quite have the best one liners for him to send out way, but thanks to a lot of the supporting cast, Luis Guzman, Christiana Leucas and Zach Gilford (Go QB#1!!), it isn’t as bothersome as it would seem.
Once again I say, this movie is a somewhat mess, but more than that a hot fun mess. Enjoyable action, fun characters and the return of an action giant (probably in more ways than I realise) that I’m glad to say that I’m happy to see back.