|Last Man Standing|
|Directed by||Walter Hill|
Arthur M. Sarkissian
|Written by||Ryuzo Kikushima
David Patrick Kelly
Elmer Bernstein (uncredited score withdrawn)
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Release date(s)||September 20, 1996|
|Running time||101 min.|
|Budget||$67,000,000 US (est.)|
Last Man Standing is a 1996 action film written and directed by Walter Hill, starring Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, and Bruce Dern. It is a credited remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo. The film is known primarily for its intense gunfights, featuring Bruce Willis's character dual-wielding two M1911 .45 caliber pistols akimbo, in the style reminiscent of Hong Kong Blood Opera.
In Prohibition Era Texas, a mysterious character (later identifying himself as "John Smith") drives into Jericho, near the Mexican border. The town is virtually deserted except for two feuding bootleg gangs - one Italian, one Irish - that have driven the other residents away, aside from the bartender Joe Monday (William Sanderson), an undertaker, and a corrupt sheriff (Bruce Dern), all of whom make their living by catering to Jericho's criminal elements.
Smith immediately establishes a reputation by outdrawing and killing Doyle's top shooter, a brazen act that gets the attention of both gangs. Smith promptly hires himself out to Strozzi's gang for what Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg) predicts is an upcoming gang war. Seeing an opportunity to make some easy money while he is on the way to Mexico, he begins playing the two gangs off against each other. This includes seducing Strozzi's mistress, Lucy (Alexandra Powers) and slipping information to Doyle's gang through the Sheriff.
The gang war re-starts when Strozzi suborns a corrupt Mexican police captain escorting a convoy of Doyle's trucks through Mexico to Doyle (David Patrick Kelly). The Mexican police murder Doyle's men and turn the trucks over to Strozzi.
Smith then quits Strozzi's gang and hires himself to Doyle's, bringing valuable information with him. Doyle's right-hand man, Hickey (Christopher Walken), interrupts a meeting between the Mexican police captain and Strozzi's cousin Giorgio (Michael Imperioli). After killing the captain (along with a corrupt Border Patrol officer), Hickey takes Giorgio hostage and Doyle demands that Strozzi give up his entire operation in exchange for him. Strozzi forces a stalemate by kidnapping Felina (Karina Lombard), Doyle's mistress. Doyle agrees to exchange the two prisoners and the two gangs scatter.
Smith is summoned by the Sheriff to meet with Captain Tom Pickett (Ken Jenkins) of the Texas Rangers, who is upset over the death of the Border Patrol officer. He warns that he can tolerate one gang in Jericho, but not two and if more than one remains in Jericho in ten days time, he will bring a squad of Rangers into Jericho and wipe out both gangs.
The next day Smith relays a false rumor that Strozzi is bringing in more soldiers. Playing on Doyle's obsession with Felina, he makes Doyle afraid that Strozzi will try to kidnap her, and Doyle orders Smith to the safehouse where she Felina is. Smith kills the men guarding Felina and sends her away with a car and a roll of money.
The next day, Smith is waiting at the safehouse when Doyle arrives, and claims that he arrived too late, Strozzi's men had already killed the guards and abducted Felina. Doyle goes berserk and declares all-out war on Strozzi's gang.
Smith's plan goes awry when Hickey puts together the truth. Doyle imprisons Smith and has him tortured, demanding to know where Felina is. Smith refuses to talk. Later that night, he escapes by killing two of Doyle's men, and escapes town with the aid of Joe Monday and the Sheriff. As they are driving out of town, they see Doyle's gang slaughtering Strozzi's at a roadhouse. Strozzi and Giorgio are the last two to die.
Smith takes refuge at a remote church where Felina went to pray. Two days later, Sheriff Galt arrives and informs Smith that Joe was caught smuggling food and water to Smith and that Doyle will probably torture him to death. He then hands Smith his twin Colt .45s and informs him that that is all the help Smith can expect from him.
Smith returns to town and storms Doyle's headquarters, gunning down the remainder of his men and rescuing Joe. Doyle and Hickey are absent, having gone down to Mexico in a desperate search for Felina.
In the final scene, Doyle, Hickey and Sheriff Galt's corrupt deputy Bob, confront Smith at the burned-out remains of Strozzi's hideout. Doyle, still despondent over the loss of Felina, tells Smith they can be partners and begs him to reveal where to find her. Before he can get further, Joe shoots Doyle with an antique pistol, and Smith shoots Bob before he can retaliate.
Hickey drops his submachine gun and says he doesn't want to die in Texas ("Chicago maybe") and starts to walk away (as seen in the earlier scene with the Border Patrol officer, this is just a ploy to invite the other man to shoot him in the back, allowing Hickey to turn and gun him down). With lightning speed he turns and quickdraws a pistol from his holster, but Smith is faster, and kills Hickey.
Smith gets into his car and drives on to Mexico, his original destination. He reflects that he is as broke as he was when he first arrived, having given all the money he made off the two gangs to various women in order to get them out of town, including Felina and Lucy. However, he consoles himself that everyone in the two gangs is better off dead.
|Bruce Willis||John Smith|
|William Sanderson||Joe Monday|
|Ned Eisenberg||Fredo Strozzi|
|Michael Imperioli||Giorgio Carmonte|
|Bruce Dern||Sheriff Ed Galt|
|David Patrick Kelly||Doyle|
|Ken Jenkins||Capt. Tom Pickett|
The film did poorly at the box office, grossing only a total $18,127,448 by December 22, 1996, and received poor critical reviews. Common recurring complaints found in the negative reviews address the oppressive and depressing atmosphere of the film; the flat, almost monotonous personality of Willis' character between gunfights; and the film's Pyrrhic victory finale. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote:
|“||Last Man Standing is such a desperately cheerless film, so dry and laconic and wrung out, that you wonder if the filmmakers ever thought that in any way it could be ... fun. It contains elements that are often found in entertainments — things like guns, gangs and spectacular displays of death — but here they crouch on the screen and growl at the audience. Even the movie's hero is bad company. ... The victory at the end is downbeat, and there is an indifference to it. This is such a sad, lonely movie.||”|
The cinematography of the movie, however, seems to have influenced subsequent pictures, especially with regard to the use of selective color. The Rotten Tomatoes community has rated this film as 64% fresh which is significantly better than most "official" critics.
Last Man Standing was an official remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo (1961). It also has strong parallels with Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which was an unofficial remake of Yojimbo.