Last Man Standing (1996)

This is one of only a couple of Bruce Willis movies that eluded me from the 90’s and I have only now managed to take the time to watch it… and I should have left it as it was. This, is Last Man Standing.

The potential for a remake of Yojimbo, but with more akin with A Fistful of Dollars, with a peak (solid and reliable) Bruce Willis of the 1990s sounds immense. Co-starring Chris Walken and Bruce Dern! With Walter Hill was behind the camera, who at the time had been pretty hit and miss. The 90 minute cut of Another 48 Hours had slipped out like a bad smell, however, Trespass had been something of Glade Plugin struggling to mask it.

Bruce Willis

The reason I gave Last Man Standing a go was to find that Bruce Willis again. See something before Bruce Willis had not yet slipped into his “I’m bored, some me the money” mode, however, this movie was a sign of things to come. He makes no effort here at all. It’s hard to believe this is the same actor that oozed so much personality in Hudson Hawk.

Walken and Dern appear in roles that could be played by anyone, certainly there are moments allowing the audience to see why each actor was attracted to the role, however, they have nothing to do for the most part, especially during the climax. Take Walken, his character is built up with stories being told of a vicious upbringing, a psychotic nature form a formidable foe for Willis to destroy. Walken appears on screen looking somewhat menacing and the audience is on-board and geared up for some mayhem. There is nothing better than Walken playing wacko! Yet we get, two acts of craziness, one off screen and the other is about as crazy as Home Alone’s “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!” The great Willis / Walken standoff is about as exciting as the contents of a Quality Street tin in January.

Lesley Mann and Karina Lombard appear in between the fleshed out male characters. However, it’s Alexandra Powers that leaves an impact with an impressive performance. There is a nice turn from Ken Jenkins, and underrated character actor, who makes the most of his limited screen time.

As an action movie, there is virtually no action. As a thriller, there is a distinct lack of thrills. As a western, it’s been done a hell of a lot better before. And the western element is something that this cheats. Swap the cars for horses and dial back the costumes and the film is a traditional western, and not a very good one. These changes only serve as a disguise to avoid the comparison with A Fistful of Dollars.

It I was to find something that Last Man Standing does well, it would be the frequently long masters. Cover large vistas with some central action occurring, cars arriving in the desert and establishing the barren and lonely wildness over which laws find it difficult to function. I guess, Hill shoots the hills well.

The colours are muddy, the production design is confused, the gun battles are slight and under-cooked and to top it all, the always welcome William Sanderson is pretty much the same character from Blade Runner, just to complete the film’s total lack of originality.

Slow, murky and unrewarding!

When it comes to poster art, nothing sells a movie better than Bruce Willis with a gun… aside from Bruce Willis with two guns.

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