Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie – Last Action Hero (1993)

Last Action Hero was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to combine action and comedy together.  He did this by making fun of his own image.  Many people did not like the movie when it came out because they didn’t like seeing action movie clichés being the butt of jokes.  They wanted to see Arnold in an action move, or Arnold in a non-action comedy. 

I liked the movie when it first came out and I feel that the biggest thing wrong with it was that it was 15 years ahead of its time.  All the jokes and references would be right at home in any number of movies and TV shows that get made now.

The premise is that Danny (Austin O’Brien) is the biggest Jack Slater fan in the world.  Slater is the number one action movie character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Danny goes to see every one of the Slater movies the first night they come out.  One night the elderly owner of the theater (Robert Prosky) asks Danny is he wants to see the latest movie that night, before everyone else does.  The answer, of course, is yes.  The owner tears a special ticket for Danny and just smiles.  The movie starts up, there is a car chase going on, and all of a sudden Danny finds himself transported into the world of the movie.  He is in the back seat of Slater’s car.

He doesn’t know how he got there and Slater wonders who the hell he is.  During the car chase Slater is improbably steering the car with one hand, shooting and always hitting the bad guys chasing him with another, and in between he is inserting music into his stereo to provide the soundtrack for the chase.

Once the chase is over Danny realizes he is somehow inside the movie.  He can’t convince Slater that his whole world is make believe, though.  Danny tells Slater that he is a character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Slater’s response is “gesundheit.”

Danny keeps pointing out all the unrealistic things that are around them.  He takes Slater into a video store to show him his movies.  They find a big poster for Terminator 2….starring Sylvester Stallone.  Undaunted, Danny points out that the woman behind the counter is way too gorgeous to be working in a video store.  He says, “This is a movie.” Slater’s response, “This is California.”  Danny then tries to prove this isn’t real by asking several people their phone numbers.  All of them start with “555”.  Danny points out that there are only 9,999 combinations.  That would be nowhere near enough for the number of people with phones.  Slater’s response – “That’s what area codes are for.”

Danny finally gives up actively trying to convince him and instead decides to try to figure out how to get back to his own world.  He sticks with Slater when they go to L.A. police headquarters.  There are two great cameos as Robert Patrick walks out of the building dressed as the police officer T-1000 from Terminator 2 and Sharon Stone walks out dressed as her Catherine Trammel character from Basic Instinct.  She is lighting a cigarette. 

The main bad guy is played by Charles Dance.  Danny sees a detective played by F. Murray Abraham and tries to convince Slater that he’s a bad guy, too, because he killed Mozart (a reference to Abraham’s Oscar winning role in Amadeus.)  At a later point in the movie Slater falls into the LaBrea Tar Pits.  He gets out and over the course of a few seconds completely wipes himself clean with paper towels.  Danny just observes, “You know, tar sticks to most people.”

There are a ton of bad puns in the movie world, such as Slater asking a guy is he wants to be a farmer, then saying, “Here’s a couple of achers” and kicking him in the balls.  At a later point, Slater says to Danny, “I’ll be back.  Bet you didn’t know I was going to say that.”  Danny responds, “You say that in all your movies.”  Slater says, “I do?”

Eventually Danny does get back to the real world, but Slater comes with him.  He tells Slater he’s got to pretend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger if he meets anybody because everybody will recognize him.  Slater keeps getting the name wrong, calling himself Arnold Braunshweiger at one point. 

Almost immediately Slater sees a crime being committed.  He is a cop, so he reacts like he would in his world.  He pulls out a huge gun and says to Danny, “Watch this.”  He fires the gun at the car….and nothing happens except a bullet hole appears in the trunk.  Slater is baffled.  He says, “Why didn’t it blow up?”

Unbeknownst to both of them, the bad guy has also escaped the movie world and has come into the real world with them.  He quickly discovers that bad guys can win in the real world and he determines that he is never going back.  He also figures out how to release characters from other movies into the real world.  Among them is Death (Ian McKellen) from The Seventh Seal.

Slater and Danny pursue the bad guy right into the premiere of the latest Jack Slater movie.  There are a ton of cameos by Hollywood types and among them are the real Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.  They show that Shriver wears the pants in that marriage.  (You can insert your own nanny joke here.)  There’s a great moment with Slater and Schwarzenegger coming face to face.

After all this Slater has come to realize that Danny has been telling the truth.  Can he still be a cop in a world he doesn’t understand?  Can he still defeat the bad guy?

As I said at the top, I liked this movie.  I thought it had a lot of good laughs.  If you’re the kind of person who hates it when a movie references another one, then you’ll hate this movie.  For everybody else, I say give it a try. 
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. In terms of how many cliches could be parodied, Last Action Hero might have been released a little early. But for Schwarzenegger, he was at the top of his career, so it was perfect timing for him.

    Quite an underrated movie. I'm pleased to see some appreciation for it.

  2. Happy LAMB Acting School 101! I thought I'd swing by to see what others thought of this film.

    Nicely done, and I agree that this film is far better than its reputation. But I can kinda see where that reputation came from: for as self-referential as it is, the film does feel like a big ol' valentine to Arnold. I also wonder if it would have played better to simplify the story -- either stick with Danny in Movieland or devote the film to Slater in our world.

    You've covered some really great movies here -- I'm gonna have to swing by more often.

    1. Thanks. Please continue to comment when you get a chance. I'm guessing that the LAMB page has the links up. I will have to go check them out.