With the director from Die Hard and the biggest action star in the world, there was little doubt in Sony’s mind that the 1993 action film Last Action Hero would be a hit. The plot, while incredibly tongue in cheek, was mild enough to appeal to more audiences than both John McTiernan and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s previous works and with plenty of humor, action, and ridiculous one-liners, it seemed like it was on its way to becoming a sure fire hit. Only the plan backfired when Universal unleashed Jurassic Park onto the world in the same summer and early reviews of Last Action Hero panned the film. The film has since either become a cult classic in some circles or severely panned in others and it seems Sony is hoping to win back some of the love for it with an all-new Blu-ray release, although sadly it is completely barebones.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is movie idol Jack Slater in Last Action Hero, which follows the adventures of 11-year-old Danny (Austin O’Brien), whose magic ticket blasts him out of his theater seat and into an action movie. There he teams up with Slater, living his wildest fantasies in a celluloid world where anything is possible.
Despite being rated PG-13, the action and dialogue in this film is like any other 80-90s action flick: right on the edge. There’s plenty of cursing, sexual innuendos, and brutal violence, but the majority of the film is very tame when you take into account the two main men behind this production. But while it may be tame, it’s no less fun and I was truly blown away by how much I enjoyed this film. Schwarzenegger is a real pleasure to watch on screen at times, but a lot of his films I found to be way overrated. With this one…it’s far too underrated in my opinion, as it’s one of the few times we actually see the man actually attempt to act rather than just blow stuff up mercilessly (of which there is plenty of that too).
What else is so great about this film is the myriad of tongue-in-cheek references and the slew of cameos that populate the film at any given time. The alternate movie-world where Sylvester Stallone starred in Terminator 2 and just the whole mixture of ridiculous other elements (the cartoon cat, for instance) that made it so enjoyable. Quite honestly I didn’t expect anything nearly as good out of this film going into it. It’d been panned for so many years and nearly everyone I talked to really disliked the film. It was really only my dad, who had actually bought the film on VHS from the local Video Town (ahh…memories), who seemed to enjoy the movie. But then his taste in films was always questionable so I kind of wondered if it was even something worth watching.
I mean, granted, the film has its flaws. It’s definitely a bit too long by the end and the whole magical ticket thing is a bit hard to swallow (and trying to think of the logistics of how it works at certain times and doesn’t at others will make your face twist into something akin of popping a super sour warhead candy in your mouth), but if you shut your brain off and just laugh along with the ridiculous plot, the extremely corny one-liners (the whole “Leo the Fart” and the subsequent flatulence jokes that occurred because of it were honestly the highlight of the second act) eventually become something you look forward to.
It’s hard to justify and defend a movie that was so universally panned, but honestly I just had a really fun time watching this film. It’s as much a parody of its genre as it is a tribute to it and I found myself laughing and smiling more during this any other modern action flick. It’s simple in execution, sure, but when it repeatedly takes digs at itself and the actors within it (as well as the fact it’s a PG-13 movie and you can’t drop abundant foul language in it) it all just adds up to be much more entertaining than anything. Even when it drags on you don’t really mind; honestly I’m rather bummed out this film didn’t do better solely because we didn’t get a sequel then. But perhaps it’s better as a one-off…not that it makes any difference because we’ll never know either way.
However you cut it, Last Action Hero is goofy, cornball, and ridiculous…but it’s also just a lot of fun. It taps into your inner kid and the constant cliché’s that get battered around only further help ones enjoyment of it. Honestly if you enjoy either McTiernan or Schwarzenegger’s works then you would have zero problems getting into this film. In which case you probably no sense of humor. Recommended.
Rejoice! No more old DVD edition! Be sad! There is nothing on this Blu-ray! Yes, it’s an all-new A/V transfer but the extras department clocks in with zero extras, aside from some BD-Live bonus functionality that I doubt few will bother to check out. I get that Schwarzenegger is the governor of California now (speaking of which there’s a joke in the film that’s even funnier now in the film now that he is actually the governor) and doesn’t have time to participate in movie commentaries, but what’s McTiernan doing? Yeah the film was panned, but I find it hard to believe there aren’t a ton of fun stories to recant about this one.
The video itself, an AVC encoded transfer, starts out pleasantly enough. There’s plenty of environmental and clothing detail, as dark and contrasted as they are, in the beginning but the films transfer really picks up once it enters into Jack Slater’s world. The first instance I noticed of true Blu clarity is when the main mob boss appears on screen with a very garish Hawaiian shirt. As ugly as the shirt may be, the colors just popped right off the screen. It looked truly fantastic and I was genuinely impressed by what this lowly runt of a action “blockbuster” could do. But then the movie progressed and sequences began to get dirtier and grimier to the point where it just didn’t look good at all. Grain became more prevalent, but never intrusive, but once we got back into the “real world,” the clarity levels dropped immensely. Which may be intentional (I don’t know since there’s no freakin’ extras!) but nonetheless it’s a bit distracting. Still for what this film is and how poorly it was received, it’s definitely miles better looking than the aged DVD edition that’s been collecting dust on shelves.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and it’s quite a great deal more impressive than the video. Surrounds are fairly active and while the sound effects sound dated on occasion (the gun firing in the tar pit sequence was very flat), for the most part they can still rock the house with their over-exaggerated whizzing bullets and rocking explosions. While the film itself isn’t quite as explosion filled as one would expect from a “Jack Slater” type film, it’s still quite rambunctious at times.
It’s a real shame this film didn’t do better. In a day and age when a film like Tropic Thunder can be so well-received, I wonder what was so different about this film that didn’t tickle the funny bones of critics back in 1993. Then again it’s kind of hard to go up against Jurassic Park and have any glimmer of hope of winning.
In the end if you’re in the market for this film then this is a Recommended release. The film is worth watching just for the self-deprecating humor alone, as it not only makes you laugh but also appreciate what the action genre has given us…and how cliché it all is now.
Last Action Hero is now available on Blu-ray.