xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
“Last Man Standing” is such a desperately cheerless film, so dry and laconic and wrung out, that you wonder if the filmmakers ever thought that in any way it could be ... fun. It contains elements that are often found in entertainments--things like guns, gangs and spectacular displays of death--but here they crouch on the screen and growl at the audience. Even the movie's hero is bad company.
The movie stars Bruce Willis as a man who says his name is John Smith, and who arrives at the Texas town of Jericho during Prohibition. It is a strange town: The buildings suggest a Western from the 1880s, the cars suggest the late 1920s, and there are two local bootlegging gangs who have arrived at an uneasy truce. And that's it. Near as I could tell, there are no other non-gang residents of Jericho except for the undertaker, the sheriff and the bartender.
“I won't say business has been good lately,” the bartender tells John Smith, who walks in for a drink. No kidding. Whom do the bootleggers sell their booze to? Is Jericho simply a distribution point? Then why are there two virtual armies of gangsters, one imported from Chicago, wearing fedoras and business suits and hanging around ominously? I'm missing the point, I know. “Last Man Standing” is not intended as a realistic portrait of anything. The credits announce that it's based on a story by Ryuzo Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa, and some filmgoers will recognize the plot outlines from Kurosawa's “Yojimbo” (1961). Well, Kurosawa has inspired other good American movies (his “Seven Samurai” was remade as “The Magnificent Seven,” and “Yojimbo” also loosely inspired “A Fistful of Dollars”), but here the attempt to move the story from Japan to Texas seems pointless, because the movie made from it isn't Kurosawa, or a Western, or a gangster movie, or anything else other than a mannered, juiceless, excruciatingly repetitive exercise in style.
The director and screenwriter is Walter Hill. When he's in good form he makes films such as “48 HRS” and the neglected “Geronimo” (1993). When he's not in top form, he makes male action mythology like “Wild Bill” (1995). What he almost always shows are violent men living in a society that doesn't give them much opportunity to do anything other than kill one another.