Judge Eric Profancik is the last action hero on the left.
"In this world, the bad guys can win."
Back in 1993 when Arnold was all the rage, I remember seeing Last Action Hero and being sorely disappointed. Somehow I missed the fact that this movie was a satire of the action genre. I went in expecting another mindless, mind-blowing action, mayhem blockbuster feature Arnie. I walked out disappointed and spent the better part of the next decade ignoring this movie. Later on I caught a few bits and pieces on cable, and it began to grow on me. I finally was able to put aside my bitter feelings and give it a chance. I never seem to catch the entire movie, but the parts I would watch were funny and action packed. Finally, 17 years later, I sat down to watch Last Action Hero knowing full well what to expect.
Facts of the Case
Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien, Promised Land) has a passion for movies, and he spends far too much time at his favorite movie theater. Seeing as he spends so much time there he's become best friends with the projectionist, Nick (Robert Prosky, Mrs. Doubtfire). His favorite series of films follows action hero extraordinaire Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Total Recall). "Jack Slater IV" is about to be released and Danny has a chance to catch a preview thanks to Nick inviting him for a midnight "test" screening. To commemorate the event, Nick gives Danny a golden movie ticket that he claims Harry Houdini gave to him.
It turns out the golden ticket is magical, and it can transport people from the real world into the movie world. Soon Danny finds himself in "Jack Slater IV," partnered up with his hero. As Danny tries to convince Jack that he exists in the movie world, evil assassin Benedict (Charles Dance, Alien 3) realizes the truth of which Danny speaks. As a mafia war simmers and as Benedict tries to kill Jack, Danny has to navigate his way in the movie world and figure out if he wants to go back home.
With bitter feelings put aside and some small level of excitement in my veins, I put in Last Action Hero and looked to be completely entertained. And as it was when I first saw it nearly two decades ago, this movie still falls flat with me. I know it's a comedy; I know it's over-the-top; I know exactly what it is and what it wants to be. Nonetheless, I'm sorry to say that it doesn't work for me.
It's not that the movie is bad; it's not that the story is lame; it's not that the acting is horrendous; it's not that the jokes don't work; and it's not that the action is weak. To each measure, the movie works with as a spot-on farce complemented by some good action moments. Add to that some good acting—including near Shakespearian quality from Arnold—and Last Action Hero comes together as a solid, successful film. Yet it's not the complete success in my eyes, for the moments are stronger than the whole. Earlier I mentioned that I'd catch snippets of the movie on cable, and I realize that this is the best way to view the movie. In small chunks, the humor is more focused and direct and you can appreciate it. The zany action is more exciting when seen removed from each other. Last Action Hero doesn't work because it's trying to do too much, pushing at you from every angle for over two hours, and it tires you out. It wears you down with its relentless barrage of satire and action. If Last Action Hero didn't feel it necessary to shove its comedy/action mix at your every second (almost) of the film, it would be more enjoyable. But it goes on for too long, doing too much, and it just cannot maintain your enjoyment.
This Blu-ray disc reminds me of your average DVD. I'm not equating it to the quality level but the feel of most DVDs: average and boring. Featuring a 2.40:1, 1080p video, the print is good but not exceptional. Last Action Hero offers up two distinct looks—the drab, gritty real world and the garish and bright movie world—both of which are handled without any problems. As applicable to each world, colors are accurate, blacks are inky, and details are solid but not stunning. In the real world it's murky and muted; in the movie world, it's colorful and chaotic. While there aren't any problems, it clearly wasn't a top-of-the-line disc, one that you'll grab for demonstration purposes. Your main audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that comes across better than its video cousin does. Here you get clear, clean dialogue from the center, plenty of zipping around and immersion from the surrounds, and decent but not overpowering bass from the LFE. It's a good mix that showcases the movie, but it isn't something that will wow you.
Something else that doesn't wow me are the bonus features, which equal one. MovieIQ uses BD-Live—which some might count as a bonus feature, but I don't since there's rarely anything specific to your movie, as is the case here—to go out and grab real-time information to display during the movie. What I don't like about movieIQ is twofold. First, the information isn't so new and fresh that it couldn't go into a static text commentary track. Second, I don't like to keep pushing the enter button to bring up movieIQ. Granted, I could keep it on the whole time, but (1) it takes up almost half the screen and (2) you'd still have to cursor around to the other tabs and more buttons.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What Last Action Hero needs more of are the quiet, simple scenes. After trimming out a good 30 minutes of aggressive antics, add in a more couple moments like the scene where Jack and Danny's mom talk in the kitchen. It's a nice, refreshing, and relaxing character moment that is far more genuine than the forced emotional beats (e.g. "I have nightmares every night.") sprinkled elsewhere.
I wish I liked Last Action Hero more. It never worked for me, and it fizzled at the box office. It has many a great ingredient; but as the old adage goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, and too much action and satire will sour the movie. If director John McTiernan (Die Hard) had more time back in 1993 and didn't have to force it on the public before having a full and proper edit, I think we'd have a better movie. I can't recommend this movie because of its flaws, and I also can't recommend the disc itself as it doesn't come across as an exceptionally strong Blu-ray disc.
Last Action Hero is hereby found guilty of flatulence in a movie theater.
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