Last Man Standing (film)

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Last Man Standing
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.


In Prohibition-era Texas, a mysterious character (later identifying himself as "John Smith") (Bruce Willis) drives into Jericho, near the Mexican border (Population: 57). The town is virtually deserted except for two feuding bootleg gangs – the Italians under Fredo Strozzi (Ned Eisenberg), and the Irish under Doyle (David Patrick Kelly) – that have driven the other residents away, aside from the bartender Joe Monday (William Sanderson); an undertaker, M. Blair "Smiley" Richardson; a mechanic, "Slim"; and a corrupt sheriff, Ed Galt (Bruce Dern) and his deputy, 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, called Finn (Patrick Kilpatrick), a brazen act that gets the attention of both gangs. Smith promptly hires himself out to Strozzi's gang for what Strozzi 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 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 restarts when Strozzi suborns Ramirez, a corrupt Mexican police capitán escorting a convoy of Doyle's trucks through Mexico to Doyle. The Mexican police kill 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 and right-hand man Giorgio Carmonte (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 captive mistress. Doyle agrees to exchange the two prisoners and the two gangs scatter.

Smith is summoned by Sheriff 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 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.

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 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's main 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 Joe 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 Colt .45s 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 Sheriff Galt's 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 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 Tommy 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 shoots Hickey, killing him.

Smith gets into his Ford 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.



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 inspiration. 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]


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. 
  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. 
  4. ^ Galbraith IV, Stuart (2001). "The Emperor and the Wolf". New York: Faber and Faber. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  5. ^ "Interview with Walter Hill - Chapter 5" Directors Guild of America accessed 12 June 2014
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (1996-09-20). "Last Man Standing review". Retrieved 2006-08-13. 

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