The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Last Action Hero is how much it bombed at the box office in 1993. For reasons I can’t remember I skipped seeing it at the theater, but as always with movies I didn’t see on opening weekend, I saw it on cable a year later and absolutely thought it was funny as Hell.
This is Arnold Schwarzenegger deconstructing the action genre, especially his contributions to it and spoofing it as far as possible. It makes me wonder if this is why it never connected with anyone. Maybe it was just ahead of its time.
The movie follows this kid, Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien), who lives in New York with his mother, Irene (Mercedes Ruehl). Danny loves movies and as much as possible, even to the extent of skipping school, sneaks off to this old soon-to-be-demolished theater to watch them. Nick (Robert Prosky) works there and lets Danny in at all hours. In this world, Schwarzenegger’s biggest contribution to the action genre is his Jack Slater character and Nick is getting the new Slater movie a week before it premieres to check the print. Naturally, he invites Danny up to see it and this is when we’re introduced to a magic ticket that belonged to Harry Houdini.
Of course no one believes it’s actually a magic ticket until in the middle of the flick lit dynamite thrown by one of the characters in the film literally bursts out of it’s “reality” and into Danny’s, landing right there in the aisle next to him. It explodes throwing Danny into Jack Slater IV, and into the backseat of Slater’s convertible, which just happened to be right in the middle of an action scene.
Now we watch this kid interact with the characters and this new Jack Slater movie is the epitome of 80s/90s action fare, but far more absurd. Cartoon characters and a black and white Humphrey Bogart are cops; there are no unattractive women about and if you time it right and enter Slater’s precinct at just the right time of day you might get lucky and see the T-1000 (actually played by Robert Patrick for this cameo) and serial killer, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone’s character from Basic Instinct and played again here by Sharon Stone herself) exit the building.
The plot of Jack Slater IV kicks in when his favorite second cousin played by Art Carney is iced. Who did the icing? Mob boss, Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn) and his psycho lackey, Benedict (Charles Dance), who likes donning flashy false eyeballs, and is a dead shot. Jack is now out for revenge, and Danny ends up perplexing all the characters with intimate knowledge of them from their other movies.
The action scenes are the expected over-the-top kind and the dialogue full of puns by Slater. Charles Dance, the real villain of the movie, is the standout for me; he’s cool, witty and lethal.
Once Slater and Benedict manage to get out of the movie and into Danny’s world we see just how unreal movies are and how a fictional movie character reacts to it. You can’t break a car window with your fist and not expect it to hurt like Hell, or shoot at a car and expect it’s going to explode like they all do in the movies. Murder is a whole lot easier in the “real world” as well as Benedict finds out when he tests a theory he has and randomly guns someone down to see if anyone will notice or if the cops will show.
Ah, yes, Benedict has a plan now and it involves a lot of other movie villains especially one Slater is very familiar with. Cue the ever dependable, Tom Noonan, playing Slater’s arch enemy, the Ripper.
I liked this real world juxtaposition the film takes, but towards the very end some of the supposed real world action takes on a more typical movie action sense. They should have kept it real, but, hey, it’s a Schwarzenegger movie, what’re going to do?
All in all I still love this movie a lot.
Like Columbia/Sony’s Anaconda (1997), Last Action Hero initially hit DVD back in the day, 1997, I think. I remember buying it but back then and learned Sony released it full frame. Major downer. The blu-ray Sony put out in 2010 had the movie in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio (IMDB lists its ratio as being 2.20:1-2.35:1). I can’t recall though if there were any more DVD releases before that blu-ray. Anyhow, Mill Creek licensed the movie from Sony and has re-released it on blu-ray in the same 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
I never bought any other version after the ’97 DVD release so I can’t compare it to the old blu-ray. I assume, though, it’s the same transfer; this one looked pretty good to me. The audio is an English 5.1 Dolby Digital and there are no subtitles. Crinkling newspapers, gunshots, explosions and car crash sounds had a little bit of a weird echo to them, but I’ve never heard this flick in its correct audio before so this may be the norm. Dialogue sounded perfectly normal, though.
Like Mill Creek’s Anaconda release there is no main menu, well, there is but it only has PLAY MOVIE in huge letters. No scene selection, no trailer and no extras. Put the disc in and the movie starts right up, it doesn’t go to the menus at all until you push menu on your remote. This really didn’t bother me since I knew ahead of time it was a movie only version.