At The Movies With FALnet

Last Action Hero

Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Austin O'Brien...
IMDB link

by Chris Grill

Here at FAL we are determined enemies of the idea that "you're only as good as your last project." What a pile. Terry Gilliam will always be one of our heroes, even if he'd never done anything other than "Brazil" or "Fisher King." For that matter, he and the other Pythons have already earned the right to rest on their laurels - now if only we had laurels anywhere near as superb upon which to rest...

Maybe someday. In the meantime, we're going to praise older projects as well as current ones. Today, at the risk of choking on the irony, I'm going to tout 1993's "The Last Action Hero". Schwarznegger is the lone exec-producer of this movie, and that constitutes a statement of some kind.

And despite my feelings about... uh, recent events here in California's capital, Arnold must be given some credit here. He occasionally delivers his dialogue with subtle nuances, which is more than one usually expects. The script touches upon some mighty dark ideas. Was it fatuous to have such big, grinning references to his real-life persona? Perhaps it would have been, if they had always been flattering. But that's definitely not the case here.

It's also best to forget about subsequent events when judging Austin O'Brien's performance as Danny Madigan, the kid. Though he had the terrible misfortune of later appearing in what I think is the worst American movie ever, he does better than could be expected here with his cariacture of a role. The same goes for Anthony Quinn as a mob boss. F. Murray Abraham is such a pro...

But Sir Ian McKellen, as Death, can be perfectly riveting with only a few words.

The movie shines when it's wallowing in satire, and has a tougher time of it in "the real world", despite the invaluable Mercedes Ruehl. Charles Dance does a really terrific John Cleese impression throughout. I think it's a brave script, with lots of entertaining bits that break rank with the usual pablum we get - the first principal writing credit for Zak Penn and Adam Leff. Zak went on to give us scripts for "Inspector Gadget" and "Behind Enemy Lines", and has a story credit for "X2". Perhaps no one else's box office drawing power except Arnold's, in the early nineties, could have gotten this film made by a so-called "major" studio. IMDB.com says it had a US$60 million budget, and grossed $121.2 million worldwide.

Sorry, but Tom and I just don't get why people tend to dislike this movie. It threatens to make a person think. Maybe it's nothing more than that. I'm not a huge Schwarznegger fan (oh, wow, here comes the smothering irony again) but there are times when I have to give him props for effort ("Total Recall", and naturally "T2"). Even after all the years I found this movie more fun to watch than many others I've (uh) bought.

Now maybe someone can write in and tell me what the inside joke is about Lucas Haas, because Danny has a line about "that kid in 'Witness'" that must have an interesting subtext.

Anyway, go check it out - again. Certainly worth renting. See if Columbia broke down and released a widescreen version yet, because the pan-and-scan on this DVD I bought is really awful (and there are some shameful editing errors and FX flubs anyway, but sixty mil doesn't buy what it used to, right?). Arnold and the ever-dependable Robert Prosky get in some good digs about legislators... but it's downright weird to hear Arnold deliver lines like "When the Governor gets here, call me."  

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