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The interesting thing about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen, THE LAST STAND (review here), opening at number 10 at the box office isn’t that it’s such an awful movie, certainly not the worst that Arnold has made, as reflected its Rotten Tomatoes rating that hovers around 50%. He hired a terrific director in Jee-woon Kim. A suave and seductive actor in Eduardo Noriega to play the villain. Johnny Knoxville was a calculated risk that didn’t pan out, but points for trying. Further, let us not forget, though one wishes one could, that it was less than a month ago that THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE:3D opened at number 1, which is, no doubt, yet another sign of the end of civilization as we know it.
No, the interesting thing is that this seems to be more a referendum on Arnold himself, and the choices he has made of late in his private life, than on his professional work. Make no mistake, as Mel Gibson learned, there is such a thing as bad publicity, and Arnold, a man who should be much savvier when it comes to playing that game, is working with a game plan designed to sink him. After being governor of California, he should have learned that autocratic behavior doesn’t fly outside the bubble of his private world, where he can rule, or try to, by fiat. Neither does ignoring the advice of people not looking at the world through the lens of his massive ego. Not everyone would buy into a contrite Arnold, acknowledging his marital mistakes and wistfully hoping for forgiveness for his all-too human failings, but there are points to be made for going through the accepted motions of crisis management. Instead, unrepentant, he wrote a book and gave a major television interview that glossed over infidelity and making a baby with his housekeeper in the bed he shared with his wife, Maria Shriver. And what was up with that t-shirt he was seen sporting after the ensuing separation that proudly proclaimed he had survived Maria?
Oh Arnold. It’s a conundrum. He came to his country poor, but with a dream, and the drive to go from body-builder to mogul. There is no denying that accomplishment. Or that he seems to have learned very few important lessons along the way.