‘The Last Stand,’ filmed in Belen, was action packed

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With all of the Hollywood bells and whistles, there it was, shining on the big screen.

Belen, a small city nestled near the Rio Grande, became a playground for actresses, actors and film crews as they transformed the Hub City into the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction — the primary location of the action-packed movie “The Last Stand.”

News-Bulletin file photo: News-Bulletin reporter Abigail R. Ortiz stands between former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Johnny Knoxville while they filmed the modern day-western ‘The Last Stand’ in Belen in November 2011. Their film was released in movie theaters this past week.

Vacant, boarded up buildings and empty parking lots along Becker Avenue were revived as the heart of the action in the Arizona town.

The film, released this past Friday, grossed an estimated $6.3 million during its opening weekend, ranking at No. 10, according to Rentrak’s website.

The modern-day western, starring former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, revolves around the leader of a drug cartel that’s racing to the Mexican border in a showcase car, reaching up to speeds of 200 mph.

The drug cartel leader is running from FBI personnel after escaping from a high level security Las Vegas, Nev., prison.

Government officials know he’s going to cross the border at some point in Arizona, but aren’t sure where. All they know is that the drug cartel leader has something up his sleeve.

Then flashes Sheriff Ray Owens, played by Schwarzenegger, who came to Sommerton to get away from the hustle and bustle, including a mission gone terribly awry that left his team dead, that Owens faced as part of the Los Angeles Police Department.

With nothing ever happening in Sommerton, a series of events throws deputies for a loop when they begin to unravel the drug lord’s master plan.

They face a drug lord and his gang members armed and equipped to take out a whole village and not hesitant to do so in a moment’s notice.

Soon enough, Owens and the sheriffs come to learn that their limited force, including two residents, are the only thing standing between the drug lord and his freedom. It’s a fight to the death that the unexperienced force faces, but can they stop the drug cartel leader?

Unfortunately, I’ve already given too much away about the film and won’t reveal the ending. I’ll leave that for you to discover in theaters with some yummy popcorn.

But I will say that this movie brought me back to Schwarzenegger’s films from the ’80s and ’90s when he dominated theaters in action-packed movies, gunning down the bad guys and vehicle explosions sprinkled about.

Throughout the film, Schwarzenegger gives his classic three-word lines in his thick and signature Austrian accent. Lines, such as “Welcome to Sommerton,” and “I’m the sheriff,” resembled the same attitude as Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” line from the science fiction movie “The Terminator.”

“The Last Stand” is a classic Schwarzenegger movie in that sense, with a bloody twist added in by director by Kim Ji-woon. The South Korean film director and screenwriter has worked on more than a dozen movies since 1998.

Although Sommerton didn’t resemble Belen as it presently stands, pieces of the town were incorporated here and there and embellished to become this fictitious border town.

Since I work and live in the areas where the movie was filmed, I was, at times, distracted from the movie plot by the surroundings the movie was set in.

I kept thinking, “I’ve seen that before,” and would come to realize where in Albuquerque or Belen the scene took place at.

It was really exciting to see these elaborate, guns blazing and bloody stand offs between the government and the drug cartel leader and his gang members happen in my backyard.

I was also astonished to see how a little makeup here and a little powder there transformed Schwarzenegger and actor Johnny Knoxville into their characters.

Compared to the way I remember them appearing in real life, when I met them while shooting the film in late 2011, they looked glitzier.

This action-packed film, intermingled with some comedy and blood, was a great film to watch on a Friday night.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.