Last Man Standing

on September 20, 1996 by Pat Kramer
   Based on famed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo," "Last Man Standing" is the American western version of the samurai classic. Bruce Willis plays John Smith, a lone gunman who, equipped with a keen wit and a quick trigger finger, manages to survive repeated attacks by two rival gangs of bootleggers by playing one side against the other. Willis is lean and mean, a convincing gunslinger whose love for the ladies is his only sensitive attribute. After driving into a "jerk-water town" on the Tex-Mex border, Smith receives a stern warning from the Doyle Gang to leave town after he stares a little too long at the Bossman's girl (Karina Lombard). But Smith is not easily intimidated and decides to further the feud by killing two henchmen. When rival bootlegger Strozzi makes him an offer, he becomes fully vested in their war, alternating between both, depending on who offers the better money. In the process, the two sides decimate each other until, finally, Smith falls victim to his own game.
   Although Willis provides a commanding performance, it's Bruce Dern as a corrupt sheriff who has the best lines, providing some well-needed comic relief in this heavy, gritty modern-day western. Lombard gives a haunting turn as Felina, the Native American beauty imprisoned by Doyle. Christopher Walken adds a scary presence in a small role as a hitman.
   Ry Cooder's edgy soundtrack provides just the right amount of atmosphere to the plethora of action scenes; you can almost smell the gunpowder smoking. In the translation from samurai to western, however, something is lost, resulting in a film that is top-heavy with "overkill" and eventually tedious to sit through. Someone should have told writer/director Walter Hill that he'd made his point, and passed it, a few thousand frames back. Starring Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern and Christopher Walken. Directed and written by Walter Hill. Produced by Arthur Sarkissian. A New Line release. Action/thriller. Rated R for pervasive strong violence and some sexuality. Running time: 102 min. Opens wide 9/20
Tags: Starring Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, Christopher Walken. Directed, written by Walter Hill, Produced by Arthur Sarkissian, New Line, Action, thriller

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