Last Man Standing is a bleak remake of Akira Kurasawa’s film Yojimbo (previously remade as A Fistful of Dollars). Bruce Willis stars as John Smith, a drifter in the Prohibition era wandering south through Texas on his way to Mexico. He has the misfortune to pass through the border town of Jericho, which has been taken over by two rival gangs. Doyle (David Patrick Kelly) leads the Irish mob which is slowly but surely winning the war. His right hand man is the ruthless Hickey (Christopher Walken). The Italians are led by Strazzi (Ned Eisenberg) who has to suffer his cousin Giorgio (Michael Imperioli), because he is the son of a mob boss in Chicago. In between the two gangs is Sheriff Ed Galt (Bruce Dern), who, wanting to live, decides he likes the status quo, and makes a living feeding information to the two gangs, and doing nothing to impede their progress. John Smith is stopped by a few of the town toughs, and when they wreck his car he decides to stay for a while and clean up the town. (The biggest problem here, to extend the cleaning analogy, is that the town is made up of only dirt, and to clean it means to destroy it utterly.) John begins working both sides of the fence, slowly pitting the two gangs against each other until an all-out war erupts in Jericho. Walter Hill directs Last Man Standing with such excessive style that the interest of the audience was forgotten. It is obvious from watching Last Man Standing that he relished every gunshot, every lick of flame, and every wound inflicted. But what he also did was to create an atmosphere so gritty and downbeat that it would alienate nearly anyone who watches it. Bruce Willis’ John Smith doesn’t come across as a very nice guy. Sure, with his dead aim and quick shots, you’d want him on your side in a fight, but you sure wouldn’t want to socialize with him afterwards. Yet he is supposed to be the hero that draws us in to this tale. The villains are either way too bland, or else they are hammy (doesn’t Christopher Walken get offered any other type of role these days?) The plot is decent, but if you’ve seen Yojimbo or Fistful of Dollars, you won’t have any trouble second guessing it (heck, even if you haven’t seen them, you won’t have much of a problem). The action is well crafted, but borderline implausible (Willis’ character should have had to use some tactics rather than: Stand out in the open and shoot all the bad guys). This one is for lovers of the genre and students of style only.
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