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USA 1993
Directed by
John McTiernan
130 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero wants to be a high-concept deconstruction of the relation between real life and Hollywood make-believe but loses itself in pandering to the low brow antics that sustain the action genre. Whilst it’s grounded in a good idea, to work it needed the Moebius-like skills of a Charlie Kaufman or even the wit of another screen merging of "real" life and fantasy, Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985).

Instead we get the less than stellar collective efforts of Zak Penn, Adam Leff, Shane Black and David Arnott (with uncredited re-writes by William Goldman) who compose a largely straightforward crowd-pleasing onrush of big stunts and SFX pyrotechnics peppered with quotations from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Olivier’s Hamlet, as read by Olivier’s widow, Joan Plowright and so on. All this however only works thanks to the presence of the No.1 action movie star of the day, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose whole career depended on his implicit recognition of his mythic status and his tongue-in-cheek attitude to his various screen incarnations.

Schwarzenegger plays Jack Slater, an action hero idolized by pre-teener Danny (Austin O’Brien). Danny is given a Willy Wonka-style golden ticket that enables him to enter Jack’s world. The kicker is that Jack, like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (1995), doesn’t know that he is a fictional character. Danny tries to explain this to him as Jack is pursued by a crime boss (Anthony Quinn) and his dead-eyed right-hand man (Charles Dance) who has got hold of the golden ticket.

Director John McTiernan, who is best known for one of the benchmarks of the action genre, Die Hard (1988), gives us a top-end production (the film had a budget of $70m, big bucks for the day) and beside the solid cast there are some good gags such as Danny trying to make Jack understand that he, Danny, knows that Jack’s police force colleague (F. Murray Abraham) is a bad guy because he killed ”Moe Zart” in Amadeus but overall it lacks the conceptual coherence its ambitions require and ends up being a hit-and-miss affair.




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