johnlink ranks LAST MAN STANDING (1996)

In 1927 Dashiell Hammett wrote a story called Red Harvest. Akira Kurosawa used it as the source for his classic film YOJIMBO. Sergio Leone then converted Kurosawa’s story into a western with A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Then, in 1997, it was turned into a story about a Texas town in the roaring 20s: LAST MAN STANDING. While I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I have seen neither YOJIMBO nor A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, I think those holes in my knowledge allow me to come to something like LAST MAN STANDING without pre-judging it. That said, I need to see the other two films soon…


I watched LAST MAN STANDING (1996) on 5.23.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

If you are looking for subtlety or nuance, this isn’t the film to speak out. Some characters talk almost entirely in gruff whisper, others primarily in screams. None are particular well-developed or anything more than caricatures.

Regardless, the proceedings are fun anyway. Bruce Willis plays John Smith, a drifter in a Texas town who slowly realizes he wants everyone dead. He faces off against a bunch of generic bad guys until Christopher Walken comes strolling into town as henchman Hickey (why he is merely a henchman seems questionable, but whatever).

John Smith kills people, sleeps with people, lies to people. He makes one or two friends to whom he must be loyal, and shoots up pretty much everyone else. It’s stylized violence which exists in the era of 90s action excess. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing particularly new either.

The dialogue goes from bad to campy. In the first few minutes I thought I would hate it. But as the cheese gets laid on thick and without irony, there becomes a certain level of charm which washes over. I found myself laughing many times by the end, and I’m fairly certain the movie intended this. This is a precursor to a film like SHOOT EM UP, tongue-in-cheek but not overly self-aware.

Director Walter Hill tries to direct this like a stylized modern noir. We get dutch angles, femmes fatale, antiheroes and the like. While part of me wants to give credit for this, it is done in a heavy-handed way which adds to the campiness of the film without adding much in the way of filmic value.

Overall I enjoyed it. I bet I would have loved this as a kid. It is harmless fun, and there are plenty worse action movies which have found their way onto my screen.





~ by johnlink00 on May 24, 2013.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks LAST MAN STANDING (1996)”

  1. I dunno, I really liked the dreamy atmosphere. It didn’t feel like they were in a real place. Other than that, you’re about right. I thought the movie was hilarious in spots. I mean, didn’t a handgun send a guy flying backwards out of a building?

  2. That’s fair, though I think some films have done a better job of creating the dream.
    I was laughing out loud at the gun battles. I mean that as a compliment. I think they served the purpose they were intended to serve.

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