When this film came out, it seemed like a lot of critics used it as a chance to examine the question of “what does Arnold Schwarzenegger mean as a movie star?” Even before factoring in that this is a comeback film for him after he had been in politics for many years I can see why that angle would appeal to people, because the film is an interesting hybrid of a modern action movie and the sort of old school movie that Arnold use to make. Watching the governator mow down people with a machine gun makes a lot more visual sense than it does watching him get into a mixed martial arts fight with a man thirty years his junior, but action movies have MMA style fight in them now.
But while I have my own ideas about what Arnold symbolizes and what the modern American action movie should be, I must say that the thought that kept occurring to me during the movie was actually less about the movie and more about the nature of criticism. One thing that Marc Maron has regularly said is that being a comedian isn’t about being funny, it’s about being funny at 8 p.m. on a Thursday, and that the real trick to it is not being able to craft a joke but being able to get yourself in the head space to put on a show as if you were clockwork, regardless of what mood you are in. I think that applies to critics, too. I enjoyed this film a lot, and it’s such sleek thriller I probably would have respected it regardless of when I saw it… But I can’t deny that watching this extremely murderous film after a particularly punishing Friday after an exhausting week really was cathartic, and I’m not sure that I would have had the same level of joy if I’d seen it on a random Wednesday at 10 a.m. just because that is when the screening was scheduled.
At any rate, this movie has enough of a sense of humor, enough solid and imaginative action, and enough appropriately hammy performances from actors who understand that they are doing ridiculous crap that I can recommend it as a solid shoot-em-up. I don’t know if America will ever get back into the business of making this sort of movie on any sort of regular basis, and I don’t know if Arnold will ever get his film career back to where it used to be, but I kind of hope so, because I do have a soft spot for this sort of unapologetic massive body-count movie when I’m in the right mood, and I do have to say that Arnold really was one of the all time greats at it.