Film Review

JOHN MCTIERNAN’S LAST ACTION HERO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I’ve seen this film 150 times. I can’t help but watch it whenever I find it playing on one of the HD movie channels. It’s never not hysterical and amazingly entertaining. Shane Black and David Arnott’s endlessly witty screenplay, which was based on an original script/story by Zack Penn and Adam Leff, was WAY ahead of its time. Back in 1993 people weren’t interested in satirizing the action movie genre; if this film got released today (and not up against Jurassic Park!) it does a lot better than it did. Critics waited with sharpened knives for this one, and never even tried to give it a chance. Fine, the kid is annoying, but I think that was part of the plan – the character is one of many constructs that the filmmakers sought to deconstruct. Arnold is VERY good here – sly, self-effacing, totally in on the joke. John McTiernan’s muscular sense of action (lensed by the great Dean Semler) is on display the entire time, with some really awesomely over the top stunts and sequences. There are so many wonderful throwaway lines and moments in this film, and the endless cameos and absurd supporting cast really sealed the deal. The ending is so meta it almost hurts, Tom Noonan POWER galore, and Arnold WIPING HIMSELF CLEAN WITH GENERIC PAPER TOWELS after falling into the La Brea Tar Pits. The absconding of Leo The Fart’s body is a great (and very funny) action set-piece, and Charles Dance and Anthony Quinn were both terrific. Silly, smart, and totally fun.

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1 comment

  1. “I think that was part of the plan” While LAH began as a great idea, I can’t agree that any aspect of the results was part of a coherent plan.

    The entire production was a nightmare (overschedule, overbudget), people being fired and replaced on an almost daily basis, the studio and star (at his most arrogant peak) determined to do whatever necessary to “guarantee” themselves the biggest movie of the year.

    I’ve read both the original Penn-Leff draft and the Black revision, and while there are some good ideas, there is much awful stuff, and the rapid way the mess was tossed together was doomed.

    A year earlier Ben Stiller had already parodied the action-hero genre with his Fox TV skit “Die Hard 12” which cleverly mimicked McTiernan-deBont cinematography, and even cast Taylor Negron as its villain. Likewise 1 year after LAH, True Lies was a profitable success while spoofing the genre and Arnold’s persona.

    If LAH had been filmed cheaply, and/or allowed to take its necessary time (for example, releasing later at Christmas `93 rather than rushing insanely to meet an artificially contrived June slot), it could have reached a larger, more welcoming audience, providing the filmmakers space to improve its flaws into a genuine masterpiece.

    Like

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