Arnold Schwarzenegger continues his transition back to Hollywood tomorrow with "The Expendables 2." But the erstwhile Terminator isn't the star. It's an ensemble of aging action heroes, and Schwarzenegger is along for the ride.
That changes with "The Last Stand," the 2013 feature which finds the former California Governor's name above the title.
Never mind the ubiquitous "I'll be bah-ack" jokes. Can a 60-something star known more for his brawn than his acting take a decade off and return as if nothing ever changed?
Frankly, the trailer for "The Last Stand" offers no easy answers.
The sneak peek sets up the story without much fuss. An aging sheriff in a border town must stop a convoy of drug traffickers from using his streets as the last stop before returning to Mexico.
The film can't hide the actor's age. In fact, older actors can endear themselves to audiences by acknowledging the passage of time before kicking significant butt. Remember William Shatner shyly whipping out his reading glasses during "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?" It was the kind of personal touch that made us forgive and forget the crows feet and expanded waistlines of Kirk's crew.
Here, Schwarzenegger grumbles, "I'm old," during one sequence, a self-deprecating touch his aging fan base will likely cheer.
Schwarzenegger is sly enough to hedge his bets during his comeback tour. In the 1980s, the actor hooked up with the most promising directors around, from James Cameron to Ivan Reitman, and doing so forged his superstar status. Now, he's putting his trust in Jee-woon Kim, the gifted director behind "I Saw the Devil" and "The Good, the Bad, the Weird."
Schwarzenegger may never repeat his past film successes, but he's not going down without a fight.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies