Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/15/02

Last Man Standing
1996 (1997) - New Line

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Last Man Standing Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/D-

Specs and Features

101 mins., R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, cast biographies and filmographies, Star Highlights (showcasing Bruce Willis' cameos in films National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 and The Player), theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Welcome to Jericho - a dusty, dilapidated west Texas town near the Mexican border that is the battleground for two rival gangs during Prohibition. Illegal alcohol - or "hooch" for those on the trolley with early 20th Century dialect - is being filtered into the U.S. from Mexico, and Jericho is the headquarters to an Italian gang, led by Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg), and an Irish gang led by Doyle (played by the under-appreciated David Patrick Kelly). Although at war with each other, the gangs are surviving despite themselves… that is until the burly, ultimate tough guy John Smith (Bruce Willis) rolls into town. Smith looks beyond the rivalry and sees only opportunity, as he secretly starts to play the gangs against each other by joining both organizations, which garners him hefty salaries. Nobody's the wiser until the Irish gang's wickedly villainous "madman", Hickey (played by the ever-intimidating Christopher Walken), returns to town and starts to question Smith's allegiance. After all hell breaks loose, will Smith be the last man standing?

Last Man Standing is a great quasi-western (you have the old-time western town, but instead of cowboys, there are Chicago-style mobsters). The action is very effective, and the acting is appropriately extreme. Willis' narration throughout contains the predictable gravely-voiced quips like: "As usual, it was hot as hell. The wind picked up the dust so much you could taste it. Whiskey helped, but I didn't want to get sloppy, so I switched to beer." The bad guys are expectedly over-the-top, without becoming too cartoonish, and everyone in the film (including most of the women) are dripping with testosterone, which helps build up the exciting gunfights. Speaking of the gunfights, they're well choreographed in the classic style of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

Willis' portrayal of John Smith tends to be static and not very interesting. Surprisingly, the audience is not treated to Willis' brand of a smirking, smart-ass tough guy, rather a traditional, straight-laced tough guy without much personality. While his character is a textbook mercenary and written very dryly, it does not make for a very interesting protagonist. But this isn't Willis' fault - it seems like he is just meandering through this film without attempting to give the character of Smith much memorability. However, Christopher Walken's turn as Hickey stands as the film's premiere attraction next to the action sequences. Walken has built a career on playing smarmy, evil characters, and he's damn good at it. His work in this film is no exception, as he portrays Hickey as a dangerous predator, but inserts his own unique ability to play quiet madness with a sly charm. We even get what I call the trademark "Walken Wink and a Smile" (see chapter 12 at about 42:01).

Last Man Standing was released to DVD way back in 1997, before there were even a half a million players on the market. Even back then, New Line was releasing great DVD product while other studios were barely getting the hang of it. The video quality on this anamorphically enhanced DVD is exceptional. The very wide widescreen aspect ratio (closer to 2.50:1) provides spacious panorama landscape shots that help add to the total experience. Colors are very rich and full, and the overall presentation is incredibly smooth and film-like. The transfer boasts a fine level of detail, with nary a hint of NTSC artifacting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive, as it transports the viewer right into the action. The surround channels are effectively used to portray ample ambient effects and split-surround action, while dialog - especially Willis' narration - is clear and natural. The fidelity of the track is full and realistic with nice transparency. Gunshots absolutely pound through the sound stage, making use of the subwoofer and adding to the already action-packed scenes.

On the subject of supplemental features, the usual suspects of cast biographies/filmographies and the theatrical trailer appear on the disc. But besides clips from a couple other New Line movies with Bruce Willis (his small, but very funny and memorable roles in National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 and The Player), there are no other features. That doesn't make me too upset though, because this particular film didn't leave me yearning for more. But I'm sure some of you out there would have appreciated more in this area.

If you're a big fan of action flicks, then jump into that pin-stripe suit and load up your tommy gun, because Last Man Standing delivers some awesome shoot-outs and greasy gangsters. Flaws aside, the film is still an entertaining way to spend 101 minutes.

Greg Suarez
[email protected]

E-mail the Bits!

Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 800 x 600 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2015 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
[email protected]