Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Magic Ticket My Ass, McBain: Some Quick Thoughts on Last Action Hero (1993)


I haven't seen Last Action Hero since it was first released on VHS back in the early '90s. I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time and I absolutely loved it. Of course, having just finished watching it for the second time in my life [and again on VHS, thanks to a 99-cent purchase at my local thrift shop], I realize that I loved it for all the wrong reasons.

There is so much insanity on the screen[s] and so many references and obscure links to mention, I'm not entirely sure how to handle the different threads plucking away in my head. I'm just gonna dive in and you're all gonna have to bare with me, because this is gonna get messy.

-- The cast is absolutely overwhelming in how many character actors and genre-favorites make appearances. I'm not talking about the main cast, although there are quite a few odd inclusions there, like Art Carney and Anthony Quinn. I mean the random cameos like Tina Turner as the Mayor in the fictional film, Jack Slater III, or Angie Everhart as the too-attractive video store clerk. An uncredited Al Leong [god, yes, Al Leong] getting killed by a stray ice cream cone. Rick Ducommun, who I love best in The 'Burbs and his brief appearances in both Groundhog Day and Gremlins II, as Tom Noonan's agent.

Tom Noonan!

You have Danny DeVito as the voice of Whiskers the Cartoon Cat, very quick cameos by Chevy Chase and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Robert Patrick reprising his role as the T-1000 yet again.

There is so much that I missed or just didn't understand when I was a kid; especially Sir Ian McKellan appearing as Death. He didn't just show up as a generic representation of the grim reaper, but specifically as the personification from Ingmar Bergman's classic, The Seventh Seal. Some might mislead you and mention this particular role in passing, but make no mistake, Death plays a pivotal role in the closing scenes of Last Action Hero.

-- I honestly forgot about the entire final act of the film. Yes, it's been nearly twenty years since I saw it last, but I remember the first hour or so vividly, and it's surprising that I had forgotten pretty much everything leading into the end credits. I vaguely recalled a rooftop showdown with Benedict [played so perfectly evil by Charles Dance], the specific mention of both King Kong and Freddy Krueger, but not the entire plot of entering the real world and attempting to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger to prevent any future installments of the Jack Slater series. I definitely don't remember Jack meeting the man who portrayed him and telling him that he doesn't really like him and that he's brought him nothing but pain, which is now one of my favorite small moments in the movie.

-- The scenes when Jack and his nemesis Benedict first enter Danny's world, the "real" world compared to their fictitious existences, are easily my favorites. Jack Slater being forced to realize that he's just a man, not impervious to pain and no longer infallible, hearing classical music for the first time and enjoying it. And his arch-enemy suddenly in a world where "the bad guys can win". They can't, of course, because it's a movie outside of a movie, and while the fictional baddie thinks that he's escaped, well, he really hasn't. It's an absolutely bizarre, sorta' heady concept that I didn't quite pick up on as a pre-teen, but wish I had.

-- Last Action Hero is far from a great film, but it's certainly enjoyable and has a few brilliant moments to its credit. This is hardly surprising considering it was written [sorta'] by Shane Black, who also wrote Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad [more Tom Noonan!], and most recently, directed Iron Man 3. Plus, director John McTiernan kinda' made a name for himself in the same action genre he was satirizing with this movie, having brought Die Hard and Predator to the silver-screen in the decade prior.

2 comments:

  1. You k now, I think I hated this movie when it originally came out... but as time has gone on I have found a soft spot in my heart for over-the-top action films, and meta-parodies like this one. I will be revisiting it soon and seeing if I like it more now than I did then.

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