Last Action Hero

Last-Action-Hero-poster“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Hamlet is taking out the trash.”

The Scoop: 1993 PG-13, directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Austin O’Brien, and Bridgette Wilson

Tagline: This isn’t the movies anymore.

Summary Capsule: A kid travels into the movies and then brings the action heroes and bad guys out into the real world.


Justin’s Rating: I’ll be smack

Justin’s Review: Second only to horror films, the action genre is guilty of reinforcing a mammoth list of clichés. Clichés such as “the car chase that always knocks over a fruit cart” and “the good guy who refuses to kill the bad guy until the good guy’s back is turned and the bad guy draws a weapon” feed off of each other from film to film until they’ve become self-fulfilling reality. It’s as if filmmakers can’t even conceive of a universe where you can’t outrun a fireball explosion; it would simply break their minds to say elsewise in a new movie.

For all of its bad press and box office failure, I must defend Last Action Hero, because its purpose is to expose, shame, and hopefully change the action genre by pointing out the unending parade of clichés that perpetuate such films. The setup here is a bit weak: a wide-eyed annoying kid ends up being literally thrown into a movie through a theater’s screen and lands in the middle of his favorite action hero’s film. Yes, it’s a movie-within-a-movie, in the vein of New Nightmare.

To be honest, I’m not that crazy about the kid. Kids starring alongside adults in general is the equivalent of inviting your grandmother to watch TV in the same room where you make out with your girlfriend. We need our boundaries. But Danny (Austin O’Brien) rises to the level of Somewhat Tolerable when he becomes the bridge that gaps the “real” world and the movieverse he finds himself in.

His hero is Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), played like Arnold plays every action role to date. Danny attempts to convince Jack that they’re really in a movie by pointing out every coincidental flaw and painful cliché (such as the police station where “wacky cop couples” are partnered up, and how everyone in the country has a 555 phone prefix), and Jack just blows the crap out of everything around him. They end up drawing the ire of a bad guy who, being smarter than the rest of the cast combined, figures out he’s never going to win being inside the action film, and thus leaps over to our world where the bad guys have a chance of winning. The whole concept is easier to follow than to explain, but the meta approach works in a more subtle way than an outright parody (such as Loaded Weapon 1) would do.

Like PoolMan’s underwear on laundry day, this isn’t as clean as you’d hope for. While the satire is good eatin’, the film really should’ve been edited down (it runs a bit north of two hours, with two almost separate climaxes and story lines along the way). Arnie himself is a grizzly respite in the night, but Danny is an annoying burr that should’ve been replaced with a cynical college student wearing an Army of Darkness T-shirt. Last Action Hero might’ve been a failure in typical Hollywood definitions of the term (critical and financially), yet it’s not boring, it is more clever than you’d expect, and the sizzling Bridgette Wilson is here in her first screen role to make your day. Dig it.

Hey! You just went past the kid you were supposed to kill, dummy!

Hey! You just went past the kid you were supposed to kill, dummy!

Intermission! [some sources: IMDb]

  • This film contains intentional continuity errors.
  • Danny tells Jack that this is Meredith/Whitney’s first movie. Last Action Hero is the first feature film of Bridgette Wilson, who plays Meredith/Whitney.
  • This was the first movie made in SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) and was Art Carney’s final film appearance.
  • Last Action Hero was written by Adam Laff and Zak Penn, who went on to write the cult fave PCU.
  • That’s a lot of cop cars
  • That’s a lot of guns
  • One of the fake credits at the beginning credits “Man with Breasts”
  • See, I’d actually watch THIS version of Hamlet
  • That kid’s smirk makes me very angry
  • All the cars exploding with minimal contact
  • The car flying into the sky and flipping over in the background
  • A man on fire AND girls in lingerie… where’s Kyle?
  • Sharon Stone (from Basic Instinct) and the T-1000 (from T2) at the police station
  • The “wacky cop” pairings in the police station
  • The female cop outfits
  • The categories in the video store are “007”, “Super Action” (x4), “Cops and Robbers”
  • Henchman or lackey?
  • Dog pyramid
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • When Jack and Danny are in the video store we see the boxes for Medicine Man, The Hunt for Red October, and Die Hard. All directed by Last Action Hero director John McTiernan.

Groovy Quotes

Hamlet: Hey Claudius! You killed my father! Big mistake!
Narrator: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Hamlet is taking out the trash.
Old Man: Stay thy hand, fair prince.
Hamlet: [shooting him] Who said I’m fair?
Narrator: No one is going to tell this sweet prince good night.
Hamlet: To be or not to be? Not to be.

Danny Madigan: How’d you know someone was in there?
Jack Slater: There’s always someone in there. It costs me a fortune in closet doors.

Danny Madigan: OK, I got one. What about this girl right here. She is way too attractive to be working in a video store.

Jack Slater: Could I speak to the drug dealer of the house, please?

Danny Madigan: You think you are funny, don’t you?
Jack Slater: I know I am. I’m the famous comedian Arnold Braunschweiger.
Danny Madigan: Schwarzenegger!
Jack Slater: Gesundheit.

Jack Slater: I’ll be back! Ha! You didn’t know I was gonna say that, did you?
Danny Madigan: That’s what you always say!
Jack Slater: I do?

Jack Slater: Kid! Who does the doctor treat?
Danny Madigan: Patients?
Jack Slater: Look at the elbow of my jacket. What is it doing?
Danny Madigan: Wearing thin?
Jack Slater: Bingo!

Jack Slater: And Whitney! Why can’t she be like every other teenager. For prom night she stayed home and field stripped an AK-47.

James Belushi: I’m not really a big fan of Arnold’s… She is, you know… Arnold really turns her on and I just want to be there when it happens.

Benedict: I’ll fetch him. Dracula? Huh. I can get King Kong! We’ll have a nightmare with Freddy Krueger, have a surprise party for Adolf Hitler, Hannibal Lecter can do the catering, and then we’ll have christening for Rosemary’s Baby! All I have to do is snap my fingers and they’ll be here. They’re lining up to get here, and do you know why Jack? Should I tell you why? Hmm? Because here, in this world, the bad guys can win!

[After seeing a “Terminator 2” poster with Sylvester Stallone]
Danny Madigan: No. It’s not possible!
Jack Slater: What’s not possible? The man is an artist. It’s his best performance ever!
Danny Madigan: But… that was you! YOU were in that movie!

Danny Madigan: Where are the ordinary, everyday women? They don’t exist because this is a movie!
Jack Slater: No, this is California.

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  1. This is definitely one of the most under-rated movies out there. It’s funny, it’s smart, it makes fun of everything that made action movies great.

    My wife and I honestly enjoy watching it whenever we come across it on cable, yes, it does run a bit long, but to watch Arnold make fun of himself it’s so worth it.

  2. Pingback: Meanwhile, in the Mutant Labs… | Bio Break

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