"Last Man Standing" DVD, Blu-ray Review

7/14/2010 Posted by Admin

"Last Man Standing" DVD, Blu-ray Review

Directed by Walter Hill, Written by Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa and Walter Hill, 101 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Remakes are an interesting but often poorly utilized idea. They provide an opportunity to take a story and its characters and explore them from different angles, styles, cultures and genres. But often they're nothing of the sort. They just take the basic superficial aspects of a film and recreate them, sometimes to good effect ("Last House on the Left") but most of the time to very bad (just pick one of the dozens of remakes that come out every year).

"Last Man Standing" is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic "Yojimbo," and by association Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars." It shares more with the latter film, simply because it shares its setting.

Like those two films, "Last Man" follows a mysterious stranger, here called "Jim Smith" (Bruce Willis), who arrives in a border town in Prohibition-era Texas where two rival gangs reside, the Doyles and Strozzis. Smith decides to play the two gangs against each other, seemingly for his own gain, but ultimately his goal is to rid the town of the two gangs and save the innocent citizens who have fallen victim to their rivalry.

It follows the structure of its source pretty faithfully--every moment can be traced back to "Yojimbo" or "Dollars"--but the film really separates itself from those films with its style. The whole thing is a bizarre mix of Western, Noir and gangster genres, with a fair bit of Hong Kong action thrown in for good measure, and it makes for a rather awkward combination. Out-of-place jazzy numbers play as Willis gives a typical noirish narration, which takes a lot of the mystery and subtlety out of what was originally a pretty awesome character. Often the narration is just jarring and silly. Turning the fueding gangs into Italian and Irish bootleggers was a pretty inspired decision, though--it doesn't quite pan out as well as it could have, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless.

Overall, Willis may be the greatest fault of the film. His narration is poor, but even without it, his performance couldn't be more dull, and for someone who is supposed to be able to charm two gangs of murderers as well as multiple women and everyone else in the town, his performance really doesn't work. The supporting cast is pretty great, though, with Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly and Bruce Dern bringing a lot of life to the otherwise dreary tale.

Overall, it's difficult not to admire the film at the very least for its originality as a remake. It's always great to see a filmmaker take a great story and try to spin it his own way instead of just replicating it. But in doing so, director Walter Hill takes all of the heart and soul out of the story. The intricate and clever plotting are all well and good, but there has to be an interesting character at the heart of it all, and Willis just doesn't pull it off, especially when you remove every bit of mystery from him.

Basically, "Last Man Standing" is a worthy experiment that just didn't pan out. Not a good film, but not a particularly bad one either.

Grade: C-

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes