Film Review: Last Action Hero (1993)

Also known as: Extremely Violent (working title)
Release Date: June 13th, 1993 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Shane Black, David Arnott, William Goldman (uncredited), Zak Penn, Adam Leff
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Art Carney, Charles Dance, Frank McRae, Tom Noonan, Robert Prosky, Anthony Quinn, Mercedes Ruehl, Austin O’Brien, Bridgette Wilson, Ian McKellen, Tina Turner, Rick Ducommun, Angie Everhart, Al Leong, Colleen Camp, Professor Toru Tanaka, Sharon Stone (cameo), Robert Patrick (cameo), Joan Plowright (cameo), Danny DeVito (voice), MC Hammer (cameo), Karen Duffy (cameo), Maria Shriver (cameo), Little Richard (cameo), Leeza Gibbons (cameo), Chris Connelly (cameo), James Belushi (cameo), Damon Wayans (cameo), Chevy Chase (cameo), Timothy Dalton (cameo), Jean-Claude Van Damme (cameo), Melvin Van Peebles (cameo), Wilson Phillips (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“Well I’m sorry to disappoint you but you’re gonna live to enjoy all the glorious fruits life has got to offer – acne, shaving, premature ejaculation… and your first divorce.” – Jack Slater

Man, this was a film I really loved when it came out. It was imaginative, fun and truly balls to the wall, even for not being an R-rated movie.

While it is still pretty fun, it isn’t a movie that has aged very well. At its heart, it is still a great homage to over the top, high octane action films from the ’80s, much like the ones that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. It features lots of explosions and a ton of gun action and great vehicle chases but it is pretty toned down for a PG-13 audience unlike the hard R-rating that these movies typically get. Overall, it is more like a tongue in cheek parody of the genre. Schwarzenegger and the director, John McTiernan, poke a lot of fun at themselves and the films that they were instrumental in creating.

One cool thing about this movie is the over abundance of cameos it has. Since it takes place in a fantasy world and also goes into the “real world”, we get to see a lot of stars playing themselves, as well as some of their most famous characters within the fantasy movie world.

The story sees a young boy get a magic golden ticket that was supposedly passed down from Houdini. The ticket whisks the boy away into the movie he is watching, a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a character named Jack Slater. The boy gets caught up in Slater’s in-movie adventure and gets to experience the fantasy fiction world of action films, which just so happens to overlap with other genres. Eventually, the big bad guy discovers the power of the ticket and uses it to go from world to world in an attempt to pull off heists and to gather other villains to stand against Slater.

The movie is full of late ’80s/early ’90s cheese but it is the best kind. Sure, the kid can get a bit grating at times but he’s not as bad as a lot of the kid actors from the time. This was also the young Austin O’Brien’s first movie. But ultimately, he is the eyes and ears of the audience, swept into this world and it was effective. Plus, I was the right age for this movie when it came out and he really just seemed like one of my peers from school.

Last Action Hero wasn’t a hit when it came out and critics weren’t kind to it. It’s a better picture than the experts would have you believe though, especially if the subject matter is something you’re a fan of. I grew up loving ’80s and ’90s action movies, so this is my cup of tea. Besides, Schwarzenegger is always great when he’s hamming it up. He really hams it up here.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Red Heat (1988)

Release Date: June 14th, 1988 (premiere)
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Walter Hill, Harry Kleiner, Troy Kennedy Martin
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Peter Boyle, Ed O’Ross, Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Bright, Brion James, Peter Jason

Carolco Pictures, Lone Wolf, Oak, TriStar Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Since I figure cops are cops the world over, how do you Soviets deal with all the tension and stress?” – Commander Lou Donnelly CPD, “Vodka.” – Ivan Danko

Red Heat was a part of a string of really good Schwarzenegger films (omitting the weak Raw Deal from that string). There was just something great about Arnie in the 80s and Red Heat is another good example of how cool and bad ass the Austrian Adonis was in his prime.

The film also benefits from being written and directed by Walter Hill, another man that was at the top of his game in the 80s, coming off of directing a string of great pictures: Hard TimesThe WarriorsThe Long Riders48 Hrs. and Streets of Fire. He also directed Brewster’s Millions, which wasn’t his normal forte but was still an entertaining vehicle for both Richard Pryor and John Candy.

The film also has some notable other actors in it: Laurence Fishburne, Peter Boyle, Gina Gershon, Brion James and Richard Bright. Then there is James Belushi, the other star and comedic half of the cop duo but oddly, I’ve never been a big Belushi fan and find his presence kind of distracting and the main negative aspect of the picture. But hey, at least this is better than K-9.

Honestly, there was probably a ton of great comedic actors that could have played alongside Schwarzenegger better than Belushi but this film is almost thirty years old and Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray or Richard Pryor probably cost too much. But hell, they couldn’t get Dan Aykroyd or Harold Ramis? Dudley Moore? Dabney Coleman? Roger Dangerfield? Tony friggin’ Danza?

Walter Hill has a very straightforward style with his directing. However, he still captures a certain sort of magic that set the quality of his films apart from others in the 80s action genre. His pictures look crisp and pristine and just very well produced. The mix of the Soviet Union scenes with urban Chicago gives this picture a cool visual dichotomy that enhances the contrast between the Soviet cop and the Chicago Police Department. The urban scenes also have that same sort of lively grittiness that Hill gave us with The Warriors48 Hrs. and Streets of Fire.

Ivan Danko is one of the coolest Schwarzenegger characters of all-time, to the point that it would have been cool to have seen him return in some form in another project or a sequel – preferably without Belushi. Arnie was just able to nail the role and he just looked like a tough as nails manly man in his Soviet cop uniform. He was an intimidating presence and the persona and visual vibe fit the actor to a t.

While this is not the balls out action masterpieces that Commando or Predator were, it definitely fits in the upper echelon of Schwarzenegger’s work. Walter Hill and Arnie worked really well together and it would have been cool to see them re-team but as of yet, that hasn’t happened.

Rating: 7.5/10