My Favorite Movies – Last Action Hero (1993)

16 Jun

By Tanner Smith

To quote the Honest Trailer of “Batman Forever,” “Yep, this is definitely the worst movie I’ve seen 40 times.”

Let me be clear–there is SO MUCH about “Last Action Hero” that doesn’t make sense. Like, AT ALL.

And everything that just about every critic has said about it…they’re right. It is a huge mess.

But damn it if it isn’t an interesting, fun, and amusing…huge mess. I can’t even take back my mixed review I posted for it here long ago.

But, dude…Schwarzenegger…the meta humor…the cool stunts…the fun premise…the Hamlet sequence…Charles Dance and his glass eye…that awesome-as-hell moment where Schwarzenegger busts through the skylight between two gunned henchmen and causes them to shoot each other…Tom Noonan as a caveman-like axe murderer…Ian McKellen as Death–THERE’S SO MUCH ABOUT THIS MOVIE TO LIKE!!!

“Last Action Hero,” directed by John McTiernan of “Die Hard” and “Predator” fame, is a heavily ambitious movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie movie about a young boy who is a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and magically finds himself transported inside of one. I first saw this movie as a kid, and that idea alone was what got my interest to begin with.

The kid, named Danny (played with convincing pluck and energy by Austin O’Brien), has an opportunity to see an exclusive sneak preview of the latest in a series of Schwarzenegger films called Jack Slater (in which Schwarzenegger plays the titular LA cop). It’s “Jack Slater IV,” in which Slater is out to avenge the mob murder of his “second cousin” (played by the late Art Carney)–I love that he’s always referred to as his “second cousin,” because action-movie motivations always have to be “personal” in some way. (Btw, I guess he really didn’t mean that much to Slater because he isn’t even mentioned again after the first reel!)

Danny is friends with an old-school projectionist (Robert Prosky) who gives him the opportunity to see the movie late at night while he checks the print. For a gag, he gives him a golden ticket he claims to be “magic.” But soon after the movie begins, the ticket’s magic works all too well, transporting young Danny right into the middle of a chase scene in the streets of LA, where he suddenly appears in the back seat of Slater’s car. This chase scene is a lot of fun and the kid actually makes a good comic foil (and audience stand-in) for all the madness happening all around him, such as the car hurling off a bridge and going upward from an aqueduct.

In the greatest of action-buddy-movie contrivances, Slater’s captain Dekker (Frank McRae) lets Danny be his new partner on the case, since he knows more about it (from watching the movie’s prologue on-screen). This is all while Danny is trying to convince Slater that this is all a movie and he is played by a famous action star named Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of my favorite bits is when they visit a video store where Danny tries to prove it, and he’s shocked to find that Sylvester Stallone is the star of “Terminator 2!”

What about the fact that LA is filled with gorgeous buxom women? “This is California,” Slater retorts. And what about the fact that about over 9 million people live in LA alone, despite everyone having a 555 telephone number? “That’s why we have area codes.” Man, I love that!

The bad guy in the movie is supposed to be Italian mobster Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn), but the one who truly takes center stage is his supposed henchman (er, “lackey”), the sophisticated straightshooter Benedict (Charles Dance), who sports a glass eye. When he gets hold of the kid’s magic ticket is when Danny has to bring Slater into the real world to find him–but this isn’t like the movies (though it’s close enough, I guess). This is where the movie starts to drag, but there are still some interesting ideas here or there.

Oh, but before that happens, we get a thrilling sequence in which Slater and Danny have to infiltrate a mobster’s funeral to dispose of a body that is set to detonate nerve gas. This includes a lot of madness involving a crane that the little kid has to learn quickly how to operate while Slater has to dodge bullets from the guns of just about EVERY GUEST AT THE FUNERAL–but it’s a movie, so the odds are in the heroes’ favor.

Look, I’m not going to lie–this movie’s nuts, man. I didn’t even mention the fact that there’s a cartoon cat in a trenchcoat walking around Slater’s police station like he’s a normal member of the force. Is the cat a character in “Jack Slater IV??” I don’t know what the deal is, but…where was I going with this?

Maybe I just love the spirit of the movie. And the self parody of the action-movie genre. And the ingenuity of the screenplay (co-written by Shane Black).

Or maybe I just love it ’cause it’s fun. Let’s go with that.

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