Last Man Standing (film)

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Last Man Standing
File:Last man standing ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Walter Hill
Produced by Walter Hill
Arthur M. Sarkissian
Screenplay by Walter Hill
Ryuzo Kikushima (story)
Akira Kurosawa (story)
Based on Yojimbo 
by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Bruce Willis
Music by Ry Cooder
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
September 20, 1996
Running time
101 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $67,000,000
Box office $47,267,001[1]
302,885 admissions (France)[2]

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.


In 1932 Prohibition-era Texas, aimless drifter John Smith (Bruce Willis) drives his Ford Model A Coupe into the small bordertown of Jericho. As he arrives, a young woman named Felina (Karina Lombard) crosses the street, catching Smith's eye. Moments later, a group of Irish mobsters, led by Finn, surround Smith's car. They warn him against staring at "Doyle's property" and puncture his tires and smash his windshield.

Smith leaves his car in the street and goes to speak with Sheriff Ed Galt (Bruce Dern). Sheriff Galt doesn't bother to conceal his cowardice or corruption, saying he won't act against Doyle's gang and advises Smith to wait for his car to be repaired and to leave town. Instead, Smith walks to the town hotel, run by Joe Monday (William Sanderson) where Smith orders a drink, books himself a room, and arms himself before announcing his intention to petition Finn for damages. Smith enters Doyle's building, finds Finn, and asks him to pay for the damages to his car. Finn mocks him and threatens to shoot Smith. Smith and Finn get in a gunfight, which Smith wins with alarming speed. Smith departs, leaves the remaining gangsters alive as witnesses, and returns to the hotel bar, much to the surprise of Jericho's residents.

Following Finn's death, Fredo Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg), the head of Jericho's Italian gang, offers Smith a job in his outfit. Strozzi predicts a gang war between his and Doyle's gang, and is hiring as many skilled soldiers as he can. Smith accepts the job and sits down to dinner with the Strozzi gang where he meets Giorgio Carmonte (Michael Imperioli), son of a prominent Chicago mobster who is monitoring Strozzi's activities in Jericho. Carmonte expresses his distrust with Smith, who leaves the dinner, and meets and seduces Strozzi's mistress, Lucy (Alexandra Powers).

Smith accompanies Strozzi and his men to a remote Texas road. Together with Ramirez, a corrupt Mexican police capitán providing security for Doyle, Strozzi ambushes and kills Doyle's men and seizes his entire liquor shipment. Following the ambush, Carmonte travels to Mexico to cut more deals with Ramirez. Meanwhile, Doyle (David Patrick Kelly) and his right-hand man, Hickey (Christopher Walken) return to Jericho and hear about the recent events, from Smith's arrival to Finn's death and the loss of their liquor shipment.

Smith defects to the Doyle Gang and reveals to them Strozzi and Carmonte's bribery of Ramirez. Hickey travels to Mexico, where he kills Doyle's and Ramirez's men, a corrupt U.S Border Patrol officer, and kidnaps Carmonte. Doyle contacts Strozzi and demands a large ransom for Carmonte, as well as the return of his trucks. Strozzi in turn kidnaps Felina and offers an even trade, Felina for Carmonte. The two gangs make the exchange and return to their respective empires.

Smith is summoned by Sheriff Galt and meets 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 says that in ten days he will bring a squad of 20 Texas Rangers to Jericho and if he finds more than one gang, will wipe them both out. Smith says he intends to play the gangs against each other, wiping them both out and making money in the process. Pickett leaves, emphasizing that, if he finds Smith here in ten days, he'll kill 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 pistols 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 submachine gun 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 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.



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 Yojimbo 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.[3] 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.

Earlier remakes of Yojimbo are cited as Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and John C. Broderick's The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984).[4]

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."[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Despite its reception, the film did have positive reviews. Those, however, were mostly about Walken's portrayal of Hickey.


  1. "Last Man Standing (1996) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Box office figures for Walter Hill films in France at Box Office Story
  3. Allen Barra (2005-02-28). "From "Red Harvest" to "Deadwood"". Retrieved 2008-10-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Galbraith IV, Stuart (2001). "The Emperor and the Wolf". New York: Faber and Faber. Retrieved 2009-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Interview with Walter Hill - Chapter 5" Directors Guild of America accessed 12 June 2014
  7. Ebert, Roger (1996-09-20). "Last Man Standing review". Retrieved 2006-08-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links