Last Man Standing (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Prohibition era Texas stands-in for 1860s Japan in this gangster tinted remake of Aikra Kurowsawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo. The film library of Kurosawa has been raided numerous times before, most notably for Star Wars, and A Fist Full of Dollars. Action maestro Walter Hill has taken the story and given the proceedings a sepia-toned visual scheme, that emphases the history of the narrative and the desuetude of its characters, who are stranded in this desert hell-hole run by two warring chieftains.

A tough-guy with a talent for gun-fighting (Bruce Willis) stumbles into the ghost town of Jericho, only to find himself entrenched in an ongoing battle between an Italian and Irish gang. Saddled with a corrupt sheriff, double-crossing whores and killers around every corner, the outsider must navigate the downfall of both gangs while still making some money in the process. Pitting both the families against one another, the mysterious stranger becomes loyal to the highest bidder. As the bodies begin to pile up, a feared hitman (Christopher Walken) realizes that this drifter is more than he appears to be.

Bruce Willis is very good in this violent period piece from Walter Hill, a man with a career full of macho, entertaining, shoot-em up pictures. Every punch and kick is amplified in a Hill movie, guns don’t merely fire but sound-like nail-drivers as they pierce flesh and bone. It is almost a trademark style, if it hadn’t been shamelessly aped by numerous hacks during the frenzied 1980s.

There are a few lapses in momentum and narrative drive in the third act that cripples the picture. Nearly sink the good-will built up over the previous 90 minutes. Even with this nearly fatal flaws, there is still enough good stuff contained within the film to warrant a recommendation.

Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Bruce Dern

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