(1997) - New Line
by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits
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
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
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.