Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Last Action Hero' shatters the fourth wall

Last Action Hero (1993)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Dance and Austin O'Brien
Director: John McTiernan
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A young movie fan (O'Brien) crosses over into his favorite movie universe--the non-stop action world of hardboiled cop Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger)--with an enchanted movie ticket. That's all well and good, but when the ultimate evil criminal mastermind of that world, Benedict (Dance) gets hold of the ticket and leaves his film reality for the Real World, real tragedies may unfold.

This movie is unfairly maligned, I think, because it's actually a far deeper film than critics and rank-and-file movie goers give it credit for.

It might be because I'm a writer, but this rates high among my favorite movies of all time--not quite in the Top Ten, bt almost. I love it, because it says alot about the creative process when it shows the film universe through the eyes of the visitor: Everything that was going trhough the writer's head while he was working on the script is included in the world--including talking ducks and other weirdness that never makes it into even the first draft--while commonplace things that every real person must have aren't even present, such as the furniture in Jack Slater's apartment. There is none there, because Slater never goes there in the stories, so the writer never thought about what it contained.

The film's commentary on the life of fictional characters and how casually we writers abuse them also spoke to me, such as when Slater learns that nothing in his world is "real" and then wants to know why anyone would invent a tale so horrible as having him powerless to stop the murder of his own young son... particularly when it's just for the entertainment of others.

There is also one aspect of criticism I hear of this film that indicates that most viewers and critics don't even get the surface of the thing. The Jack Slater Universe the fan crosses into isn't supposed to be a recreation of "Lethal Weapon." It's supposed to be a spoof of it and all action films of that type. I think it was great that Schwarzenegger was willing to lampoon himself and even the entire genre that his career was built on with this film. (And with my interpretation, some of the more outrageous aspects of the film world--such as the mob hit--may actually be like the talking duck... things that will never show up in any actually produced movie).

"Last Action Hero" is a movie that both critics and audiences don't seem to get, because they don't watch it with their brains engaged. Try taking a second look at it, but this time consider that maybe there's something to it that isn't on the marquee.

1 comment:

  1. I remember Art Carney's cameo in this at the beginning, when he's all tied up and beaten up. He played Arnold's cousin, I think.