The Man With an Ordinary Name
Heading down to Mexico via Texas, John Smith (Bruce Willis) comes to a fork in a road and having spun his empty whisky bottle heads to a dust bowl of a town called Jericho where no sooner has he arrived the local Doyle gang start on him. It seems that Smith has walked in to two a two gang town, the Doyles and the Strozzi's, who don't welcome strangers in to their mix. But after killing Doyle's head muscle Smith aligns himself with the Strozzi's before switching sides when the Doyles come to him with a tempting offer before finally deciding they are as bad as each other and the town would be better off without the gangs. The trouble is the arrival of hitman Hickey (Christopher Walken).
So we have a mysterious man arriving in a town and playing two gangs off against each other. Some will point out its similarity to Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" whilst others will take a step further back to "Yojimbo" and those really in the know might suggest that these movies are influenced by others and those in turn were probably influenced by an 18th century play by the name of "Servant of Two Masters". Basically Walter Hill's "Last Man Standing" takes a familiar storyline, changes it to a prohibition town in Mexico with and Irish and an Italian gang and Hill gives it his styling and brand of action.
For me having watched some of those other movies it means that "Last Man Standing" struggled to mentally stimulate me because I spotted the story right off the bat. And whilst Hill gives it some variation especially with John Smith giving us some film-noir style narration it still struggled to grab my attention or at keep me interested on a mental level.
But then right from the word go it is obvious that "Last Man Standing" is heavily about the look and there is no denying that from the word go it is visually stimulating with beautiful shots with the sun giving everything an orange hue. Plus when it comes to small but powerful action Walter Hill is a master and watching Smith unload two guns on a man as he flies backwards through a door in a cloud of gun smoke is entertaining. It is what makes the movie, the look from the old cars driving a long a dusty road to moments of violence including Smith taking a beating.
The trouble is, and I am sure this is the same for others, if you recognize the story "Last Man Standing" ends up feeling as if it is lacking, as if all it has got is the look. Even the casting of Willis, Walken and Dern does little to make it any more interesting although it is interesting to see Leslie Mann in an early dramatic role or at least semi dramatic.
What this all boils down to is that "Last Man Standing" is certainly a stunning looking movie. The trouble is that the familiarity of the storyline makes it feel like it is lacking and as such it ends up a movie all about the visual and lacking that something to be mentioned in the same breath as "A Fistful of Dollars" and "Yojimbo".