Last Man Standing is a 1996 American action thriller film written and directed by Walter Hill and starring Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken and Bruce Dern. It is a credited remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, and was influenced heavily by the plot of A Fistful of Dollars, which is nearly the same. Bruce Willis also channels much of the same John McClane persona and some Hard Boiled type gunplay ensues as well.
In 1932, Prohibition-era Texas, a mysterious character named John Smith (Bruce Willis) drives into Jericho, near the Mexican border (Population: 57), in his Ford Model A Coupe. Mere moments after arriving in the city, he takes a look at a young woman named Felina (Karina Lombard), and because of that, he is surrounded by Irish mobsters led by Finn, who is working under Doyle (David Patrick Kelly), who promptly smashes his car and leave it in a state of disarray, telling him that nobody cannot even look at the girl since she is "Doyle's property". Smith doesn't react, but instead, he checks into a small bar/hotel led by Joe Monday (William Sanderson).
After establishing himself in the bar, he goes into Sheriff's office, where he meets the current Sheriff, Ed Galt (Bruce Dern), and his deputy, Bob. Galt reveals himself that he is corrupt and that he cannot make actions against Doyle's gang, and advises him to leave town. Instead, Smith goes into Doyle's bar, where he politely asks Finn to pay for the damages he inflicted on his car. When Finn mocks him, he promptly kills him in a gun draw, riddling him on the bullets with his twin Colt M1911's, and blasts Doyle's office, and leaves the place, returning to the bar, much to the surprise of Jericho's residents. He later goes to a local mechanic and pays him to fix his car.
Finn's murder catches the attention of Fredo Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg), and Smith is greeted by two of Strozzi's henchmen, who offer him a job. Smith accepts and relocates to Strozzi's bar outside of Jericho, where he is introduced to him and his right-hand man, Giorgio Carmonte (Michael Imperioli), son of a prominent Chicago mobster who is monitoring Strozzi's activities in Jericho, who distrusts Smith. Strozzi predicts a gang war between them and Doyle's gang. Smith, who overhears some important information, goes to Galt and tells him the information, knowing he will pass them to Doyle. He also seduces Strozzi's mistress, Lucy (Alexandra Powers), and has sex with her.
Strozzi manages to bribe Ramirez, a corrupt Mexican police capitán who is working for Doyle. Ramirez is escorting a convoy of Doyle's trucks from Mexico to Texas, but, since he was bribed by Strozzi, he is led to an ambush spot where Strozzi, Carmonte and Smith, along with Strozzi's crew, are waiting from then. The Mexican police kill Doyle's men and turn the trucks over to Strozzi, who capture the stolen alcohol and the trucks, destroying a major part of Doyle's shipments and disrupting his operation in Texas. Afterwards, Carmonte goes to Mexico with Ramirez to cut more deals.
Meanwhile, Doyle and his right-hand man, Hickey (Christopher Walken) return to Jericho, being absent while Smith arrived, and hear about the recent events. Smith defects to Doyle's gang and passes out valuable information, effectively becoming a triple agent. Smith informs on the ambush and reveals that Ramirez was bribed by Strozzi. Hickey goes back to Mexico with Doyle's men and ambushes Ramirez and Carmonte, who are also with a corrupt U.S Border Patrol officer, killing the officer and Ramirez and kidnapping Giorgio. Afterwards, Doyle demands a large amount of money and the trucks back in exchange for Giorgio. However, Strozzi kidnaps Felina while she is in the church, forcing a stalemate between him and Doyle, and the two agree to exchange Giorgio in exchange for Felina. Smith, who is standing by Doyle's side, witnesses the event, and the two gangs scatter after the exchange.
Afterwards, Smith is summoned by Galt 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 Smith that he can tolerate one gang in Jericho, but not two. He explains to Smith that he will bring a squad of 20 Rangers into Jericho in 10 days, and if he finds both gangs, he will wipe them out both. Smith informs him that he will wipe out the gangs by himself since he is looking for some easy money, and Pickett informs him that if Smith is here when he returns back, he will eliminate him as well.
Lucy comes to Smith and reveals that Strozzi, angered after the exchange, beat her and had Giorgio cut her ear off when she revealed her affair with Smith. Smith gives her some money and puts her on a bus out of Jericho. 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 again, and Doyle orders Smith to go to the safehouse where Felina is being held. Smith kills the men guarding Felina. Felina reveals that her husband lost to Doyle on a game of poker and he kept her as a prize, and she goes to Mexico to return to her family, with Smith giving her one of Doyle's cars and some 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's henchman Jack McCool (R. D. Call) believes Smith's story, while Hickey suspects that Smith killed the guards and freed Felina. Doyle goes berserk and declares all-out war on Strozzi and his gang.
Smith's plan goes awry when Hickey and some of Doyle's men ambush Smith, with Hickey revealing that he had pieced together the truth by learning that Felina was not abducted by Strozzi and had sold her car in Mexico and took a bus to the South. Doyle imprisons Smith and has him tortured, demanding to know where Felina is. Despite the heavy torture inflicted on him, Smith refuses to talk. Later that night, he escapes by killing two of Doyle's men, and escapes town with the aid of Monday and Sheriff Galt. As they are driving out of town, they see Doyle's gang slaughtering Strozzi's gang at a roadhouse. After all of their men are killed by Doyle's men, Strozzi and Giorgio exit the roadhouse and try to surrender to a revenge-driven Doyle. Hickey shoots Strozzi to death, while Giorgio is killed by Doyle's men.
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 M1911's and informs him that that is all the help Smith can expect from him. Smith returns to town and storms Strozzi's hotel, which is now Doyle's headquarters and kills all of Doyle's men, including McCool, and rescues Joe. Doyle and Hickey are absent, having gone down to Mexico in a desperate search for Felina.
In the final scene, Doyle, Hickey and Bob confront Smith at the burned-out remains of Strozzi's hideout since Smith summoned them there. 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 in the chest with a Wild-West era revolver, killing him for "ruining his town" and Smith shoots a shotgun-wielding Bob before he can retaliate. Hickey drops his 1928 Thompson and says he doesn't want to die in Texas ("Chicago maybe") and starts to walk away, intending to actually kill Smith. With lightning speed he turns and quickdraws a pistol from his holster, but Smith is faster and shoots Hickey, killing him.
Smith gets into his Ford (which was repaired by the mechanic) and drives on to Mexico, his original destination, leaving Joe some money and Doyle's car to return back to Jericho. 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 as John Smith
- Bruce Dern as Sheriff Ed Galt
- William Sanderson as Joe Monday
- Christopher Walken as Hickey
- David Patrick Kelly as Doyle
- Karina Lombard as Felina
- Ned Eisenberg as Fredo Strozzi
- Michael Imperioli as Giorgio Carmonte
- R. D. Call as Jack McCool
- Alexandra Powers as Lucy Kolinski
- Ken Jenkins as Capt. Tom Pickett
- Ted Markland as Deputy Bob
- Leslie Mann as Wanda
- Patrick Kilpatrick as Finn
Last Man Standing is credited as a remake of the aforementioned 1961 Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo, which Kurosawa scholar David Desser and critic Manny Farber, among others, state Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest was the inspirationm as well as the original Yojimba remake, A Fistful of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood, comparing Eastwood's The Man With No Name character to Willis' John Smith character, since John Smith is a very common name. Other scholars, such as Donald Richie, believe the similarities are coincidental. Kurosawa said that a major source for the plot of Yojimbo was the film noir classic The Glass Key (1942), an adaption of Hammett's 1931 novel of the same name. In Red Harvest, The Glass Key, and Yojimbo, corrupt officials and businessmen stand behind and profit from the rule of gangsters.
Walter Hill later said that he and Bruce Willis "were not close when we did the film" but "I liked working with him. It was impersonal. Classic, 'I know what you mean. You want me to be a Bogart, Mitchum kind of guy' and I said 'Exactly. Let it happen.' He then took that and gave what I thought was a very good performance. I always sensed there was a kind of core resentment that Bruce felt he should be more appreciated for his talents. At the same time I think there is a limitation, that he does certain things better than others, and he hasn't always chosen so wisely."
Walter Hill's original cut of the movie was over two hours long. Before Hill edited the final theatrical version his rough cut was used to edit the trailers for the movie, which is why there is lot of alternate/deleted footage shown in them, including many alternate takes, different edits of some scenes, extended versions of scenes, some extra lines of dialogue, shots and parts of deleted scenes including additional shootout sequence between two gangs and alternate ending in which Hickey is killed by Smith in different way. Some promotional stills and pictures also show several deleted scenes.
The film was a box office bomb, grossing only a total $18,127,448 domestically by December 22, 1996, and brought in only $47,267,001 worldwide.
The film received mixed to negative critical reviews, with a rotten 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Common recurring complaints 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. Critic Roger Ebert (who gave the film one star) 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.Despite its reception, the film did have positive reviews. Those, however, were mostly about Walken's portrayal of Hickey.
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