Last Man Standing

Bomb Rating: 

It's no secret that loner John Smith (Bruce Willis) is going tokick the ass of all the gangsters that inhabit the little town of Jericho, Texas. However, after men from Doyle's (David Patrick Kelly) gang bash on Smith's car because Smith looked at Doyle's girl the wrong way, Smith fails to ask the question that would spring to the mind of any reasonably intelligent person with a penchant for shooting people: "Why would big, bad gangsters be hanging out in some little backasswards town in Texas?" Answer: "Because they are LOSERS."

Director Walter ("48 hrs") Hill claims he was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo," but it looks more like he was inspired by a John Woo film marathon and a hefty donation from the NRA. The actors in this film shoot more blanks than Tom Cruise as their dim-witted gangster characters blast away indiscriminately in the general direction of Willis -- apparently unaware of a recent Evil Villain Institute report suggesting that one or two bullets to the head usually does the trick. After everybody has been firing for several minutes, the only real cause for suspense is the possibility that a ricochet will catch Willis in a tender spot and maybe give Hill a chance to work on a little old thing called "plot."

When Willis isn't shooting somebody he's playing both sides of the fence, first working for Doyle then working for Doyle's nemesis, Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg), then tricking the sheriff (Bruce Dern) and Strozzi's girl (Alexandra Powers) into working for him. Throughout it all hangs the menacing specter of an initially unseen mystical bad guy whom everybody talks about. Here's a question: If you're a Hollywood filmmaker directing a gangster film and you need a fearsome mystical bad guy, whom do you hire? Any votes for Christopher Walken?

Those still stumped by this casting puzzle may well enjoy "Last Man Standing," finding it to be the perfect antidote to a tough day spent eating soup with the wrong side of a fork. If only Walter Hill and his action-film brethren were forced to sit on a fork every time they reworked a tired cliché -- then the creative process might seem a lot less impenetrable to them.

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