Last Action Hero (1993)

23 Jan

Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Last Action Hero” has an engaging idea for satire of action films. Unfortunately, it also has too much of a good thing that it adds on to more ideas that wear out the movie’s welcome. At 130 minutes, the movie does feel too long—probably because of everything they added when the movie could’ve ended a lot sooner without many complications. Don’t get me wrong. There are complications in action movies—otherwise, the films would have no purpose. The problem with “Last Action Hero” is that there are too many complications that become less thrilling and more…well, complicated. Maybe if the movie had been tightened in the editing process, we would’ve had a better movie.

The movie is about a kid named Danny (Austin O’Brien), who is a big fan of action movies featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has a great advantage of seeing these movies for free—he’s friends with an old projectionist named Nick (Robert Prosky). How these two are great friends is never explained but do we need to know? Anyway, Nick lets Danny see a print of Schwarzenegger’s new big film “Jack Slater IV” one night. This is the fourth movie in Schwarzenegger’s “Jack Slater” series, in which a cop gets involved in crazy adventures, much like Bruce Willis’ character in the “Die Hard” movies. Sensible, considering the director of the first “Die Hard” film is John McTiernan, who also directed “Last Action Hero.”

Nick gives Danny a “magic ticket” and during the beginning of this exciting new movie he gets to see, Danny’s ticket works so well that it brings the kid through the screen and into the action. He winds up in Slater’s car and becomes involved in a chase scene.

One of the pleasures of this movie is that Schwarzenegger’s Jack Slater believes that he and his whole world is not fictional, but real. Danny tries many times to prove that Slater is Schwarzenegger, but Slater doesn’t believe him. Danny also points out many clichés in this film world—unattractive women are nonexistent (by the way, I love the explanation Slater gives Danny—“This is California”), everybody has a 555 number, LAPD police stations are more pleasant, there are cameos by many famous actors (particularly Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick, who literally have walk-ons as their more notable career roles), and Slater can’t say a certain word because the movie is PG-13. And so on. Oh, and there’s also a reference to the Talking Killer, in which the killer always explains so much of the plot when he only seems closer to winning. The best moments go to Austin O’Brien who has fun as this kid who knows more than anybody else in this world.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has fun with his role. This is a cop character who would check dead bodies for cigars to smoke before sending the coroners on their way, and also a person who plays chicken with the bad guys and always wins. He even kids his own persona (“I’ll be back,” “Trust me,” etc.). He’s fun to watch in this movie. And of course, he deserves credit for parodying his own image.

The gimmick is fun in “Last Action Hero,” but it’s all over the place from beginning to end. The story is never fully developed and we don’t care much for the fate of Slater, since he is established as a fictional character. (“You can’t die till the grosses go down,” Danny assures him.) There are also many scenes that would’ve done better on the cutting room floor. For example, there’s a scene in the beginning where the kid is robbed, only to have a small payoff involving a handcuff key, midway through the film that didn’t work at all. There are other scenes like that (most frustrating a cameo by Death, played by Ian McKellan) and also there are one too many climaxes that seemed to keep the movie dragging.

There are good things in this movie, like the moments with the kid I mentioned above. The action is impressively hectic, especially when Slater has to stop a chemical explosion from going off at a funeral, and there are a few amusing bits—I liked the bit where the kid is shocked to find that Sylvester Stallone is The Terminator, and another bit in which Tom Noonan shows up innocently after his character The Ripper (a skuzzy-looking villain in “Jack Slater III”) shows up at a Hollywood premiere (don’t ask).

But as a whole, “Last Action Hero” feels a little uneven, especially for action fans. Some may like this movie and younger ones may identify with the kid. I liked parts of “Last Action Hero” but not enough to grace my satisfaction.


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