Korean filmmaker Kim played with the Western genre before in his wacky 2008 pastiche The Good the Bad the Weird, and this film is just as chaotically uneven, mixing cartoon-style silliness with grisly violence. But the high-energy approach holds our interest, as does Schwarzenegger's immense screen presence in his first starring role since his political career. The film is far too jumbled to hold together, but its sardonic sense of humour makes it a decent guilty pleasure.
Arnie plays Sheriff Owens, who has a quiet routine in his sleepy Arizona-Mexico border town. So when a stranger (Stormare) appears, he sends his deputies (Alexander and Gilford) to investigate. Things get violent quickly, so he deputises a drunken veteran (Santoro) and a moronic gun-nut (Knoxville) to work alongside another deputy (Guzman). What he doesn't yet know is that the baddies are part of an elaborate plan to help a drug kingpin (Noriega) escape from a Law Vegas FBI Agent (Whitaker) and cross the border to freedom in Mexico.
The whizzy plot actually has promise as a straightforward action movie, but Kim throws so much nuttiness at the screen that we can't take anything seriously. The story zings from set-piece to set-piece without much concern for credibility or coherence. It's all very cool, especially the baddie's glimmering, super-fast prototype Corvette, which travels "faster than a chopper" on isolated country roads that are improbably smooth. And his climactic plan to get over the border is astonishingly silly, but played dead straight.
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