When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state's evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he's no longer breathing.
John Smith is an amoral gunslinger in the days of Prohibition. On the lam from his latest (unspecified) exploits, he happens upon the town of Jericho, Texas. Actually, calling Jericho a town would be too generous--it has become more like a ghost town, since two warring gangs have 'driven off all the decent folk.' Smith sees this as an opportunity to play both sides off against each other, earning himself a nice piece of change as a hired gun. Despite his strictly avowed mercenary intentions, he finds himself risking his life for his, albeit skewed, sense of honor.... Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Elmer Bernstein was originally hired to compose the music but he was fired by director Walter Hill, after writing half of the score, on the basis that it wasn't what he was looking for. See more »
At the second to last battle at the Strozzi place, you can see John's 45. The action goes back and locks several times, and yet, he still fires when it is back. See more »
It's a funny thing. No matter how low you sink there's still a right and wrong. You always end up choosing. You go one way so you can try to live with yourself. You go the other, you'd still be walkin' around, but you're dead and you don't even know it.
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Plot summary: In a prohibition era update of Yojimbo, Bruce Willis shoots a load of gangsters.
First off I will never understand why Walter Hill does not have a better reputation. He's probably best known for his commercial success with the 48 Hrs films, and his other brilliant features get criminally overlooked. He scored a cult hit with "The Warriors", he delivered one of the best westerns ever with "The Long Riders", and put all other car chase movies to shame with the ultra cool "The Driver." As anyone who has seen these films should realise, Hill should be mentioned in the same breath as Peckinpah, Woo and Rodriguez when it comes to slow-mo gunplay.
"Last Man Standing" doesn't rival these earlier works, but it is a tough, gritty film with some fantastic shootouts. It doesn't hold itself back in terms of blood and violence, something current US films of the genre are guilty of doing. It has everything an action film needs; tough antihero, loath able bad guys, a creepy main villain and plenty of cannon fodder. As long as you don't get hung up on technicalities (ie the guns fire ten times more ammo than they hold) you should be entertained.
It doesn't feel like any effort went into the screenplay, but Hill adds some nice touches to the film in terms of nods towards the source material. I particularly like the opening where Bruce spins his empty whisky bottle on the ground to decide which road to take; a clear reference to Toshiro Mifune throwing a stick into the air to decide on his path. There is also an interesting cast; there's earlier Hill collaborator Bruce Dern (The memorable villain from The Driver), William Sanderson (Blade Runner) and of course Christopher Walken, who chews the scenery talking tough with his hoarse accent and threatening people with a Tommy gun. His performance is really the most memorable thing about the film. Willis is not Mifune or Eastwood, but he does suit the mysterious drifter character well and this is one of his better action man roles.
All things said, the film certainly doesn't come close to "Yojimbo", but it does give the more rough hewn "Fistful of Dollars" a run for its money. By no means a masterpiece, "Last Man Standing" should still provide enough for any action fans tired of watered down mainstream Hollywood nonsense that currently dilutes cinemas. It is certainly a lot better than its reputation makes out.
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