In case you haven't heard, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back (again) for "The Last Stand," a goofy, bloody shoot-'em-up that marks Korean director Kim Jee-woon's US debut and Arnold's first starring role since "Terminator 3." But he's not the only one making a comeback with "The Last Stand." And actually, if you're counting at home, thanks to cameos in the "Expendables" franchise, Schwarzenegger's had memorable moments on the big screen a lot more recently than his co-star Johnny Knoxville, who plays the bumbling sidekick to Arnie's aging Arizona sheriff.
In "The Last Stand," the 65-year-old Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens, who retired from the LAPD's narcotics division to take a cozy sheriff job in a sleepy border town. That is, until his peace and quiet gets ruined by a Mexican cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) who escaped from FBI custody and is headed towards Sommerton Junction at 200+ m.p.h. thanks to a souped-up Corvette. And to stop him, Ray will need to enlist the help of a group of misfits-turned-honorary-deputies, including Lewis (Knoxville), a local eccentric with an impressive collection of both firepower and funny hats.
Watching Knoxville mug for the camera and throw his body around with his trademark reckless abandon, it's hard to believe he's been relatively invisible since "Jackass 3D" assaulted audience's eyeballs back in 2010. So what's Johnny been up to these past three years? Here's a brief sampling of highlights:
-- In November 2012, Knoxville starred opposite Patton Oswalt in the comedy "Nature Calls," where the pair play polar-opposite brothers. The New York Post gave it one star and raved, "everyone draws together and learns about teamwork, or something." The movie currently sports a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made $646 at the box office. Total.
-- Last October, Knoxville appeared in "Gossip Girl" co-creator Josh Schwartz's Halloween comedy "Fun Size." According to USA Today, he played a "creepy stranger" who abducts an 8-year-old; The Hollywood Reporter called his performance "uncredited."
-- In July, Knoxville guest-starred in an episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants," voicing Johnny Krill, a shellfish/motocross stuntman. Reports indicate this was his most critically-acclaimed performance of the past three years (if not longer).
-- Before that, Johnny had a supporting role as "Tommy Balls" in "Small Apartments," starring "Little Britain" co-creator Matt Lucas. The film premiered at South by Southwest last March and will get a limited release this February, before arriving on DVD two weeks later. In their SXSW write-up, Variety praised -- or at least specifically mentioned "Knoxville's leopard-print underpants," and IMDB user mau79 declared, "i'm Pretty sure i won't enjoy The movie. [sic]"
-- And in 2011, Knoxville showed up as Kevin Spacey's boss in "Father of Invention," a little-seen film written and directed by Trent Cooper (the impresario behind "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector") that has a perfect 0% on the Tomatometer, and that Stephen Holden of The New York Times called "a ... comedy" and Variety pronounced "unlikely to extend its limited run."
But in "The Last Stand," Knoxville gets back to the sort of goofy action hero sidekick role he seemed destined for after landing a similar part alongside The Rock in 2004's "Walking Tall." And despite his recent string, he's clearly still a name brand, getting second-billing here (above Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker). It helps that he's also right in his wheelhouse, playing an oddball who gives the Sommerton PD a serious dose of firepower courtesy of his own personal collection, including a World War II-era anti-aircraft gun. And whether it's comic relief with Luis Guzman or "Jackass"-style stunt work scaling a telephone pole, Knoxville delivers whatever the movie asks of him.
And while he may not have spent the past few years holding public office, it's still good to have him back. Much like Arnold, Knoxville's comeback doesn't stop with "The Last Stand" either -- you can spot him in the upcoming ensemble raunchfest "Movie 43" as early as next Friday. Oh, and just a few days ago, Knoxville tweeted a picture of himself holding a danish up against his butt.
So yeah, the man's keeping busy.