The Last Stand

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on January 21, 2013

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Dear Jacob J. Yoo
Screenplay Translator

Dear Jacob,

Hollywood has a wonderful tradition of attracting the world's biggest film stars. The biggest proof has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite an incredibly awkward early career and this new, strange, career twilight phase you're a party to. But he's far from alone. In fact, The Last Stand _is equally notable for being South Korean genre specialist Kim Jee-woon's English language directorial debut, despite his not speaking any English. So the task fell to you to make sure nothing was lost in the translation of this all-American themed action-western adventure that essentially pits the Terminator against _The Good, The Bad and the Weird. The result is a big messy mash-up that harnesses awkward charm to meet entertaining ends.

The casting alone personifies the film's warm embrace of the bizarre. Schwarzenegger plays a small town sheriff enjoying the quiet life after a bloody drug bust went sour in Los Angeles. His deputy is played by the always enjoyable Luis Guzman, who can out-funny talk almost anyone who calls English a second language. That is, until Peter Stormare graces the town with his obscure accent and dubious plan to smuggle (read: violently shuttle) a Mexican drug lord across the border. Schwarzenegger must, therefore, round up a rag-tag of heroes that includes ex-solider and current jail-house lock-up Rodrigo Santoro, who boasts the sexiest ill-command of English in the bunch. The film might as well include the subtitle In the Land of Funny Accents, but that probably wouldn't sell. Instead,_ _the posters make a big deal of Johnny Knoxville's presence, but your script is much less interested why his character is included, beyond a nominal plot purpose at the end.

Ironically, a film like this may never have been designed for American audiences. A lot of clumsy nuance can be forgiven when subtitles are slapped over a performance. If the story works, the action is convincing, and the pacing feels right, a lot of nitpicking would be lost on foreign audiences (that ever-growing box office market). And to that end, the film gets a lot of things right. The early escape sequence in Las Vegas is impressive, the characters are given time to process and react to what's happening, and a number of the action sequences (namely the cat-and-mouse chase in the cornfields) feel inspired. All of these elements play well to the genre, and feel like they're working on an appropriately exciting, but not wildly over-the-top scale. Well, at least by American movie standards.

For that reason, I'd say you did a pretty good job. The director obviously understands the universal film language of shooting underdog action picture. Even if the rest of production is working from a very basic translation.



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