Released by: Sony Released on: 1/12/2010 Director: John McTiernan Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Austin O’Brien, Art Carney, Charles Dance Year: 1983 Purchase From Amazon
A fun mix of action, comedy and satire, The Last Action Hero should have been an action movie fan’s dream come true, what with Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the biggest star in the world, getting in front of the camera for director John McTiernan for the first time since they made Predator. The guy who made Die Hard directing the guy from the Terminator? Sign me up! What the made together, however, was a PG-13 rated kid friendly comedy that at the time seemed to take a lot of people by surprise with its playfulness and its flat out goofiness.
The movie follows a kid named Danny (Austin O’Brien) who loves the action packed Jack Slater movies so much he’s seen the third one six times in the theater. With the release of the fourth film just around the corner, Danny’s pretty stoked, especially when the local theater’s weird old projectionist invites him to a special advance screening of the movie. What kid wouldn’t want to see the summer’s hottest film before everyone else on his block? What Danny’s doesn’t realize is that Houdini once played in this same theater and that his magic is still alive and well. Before you know it, Danny’s in the film with Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) himself. Once he realizes he’s in the movie, he’s able to help Jack solve crime after crime but Jack, not knowing anything outside of his movie life existence, doesn’t believe Danny when he continually tries to prove to him that what’s happening to them isn’t real. Soon, however, Jack starts to realize that Danny really does know more than a kid should and starts to give his theories a bit more credence. The two pair up to stop the criminals in Jack’s world from ruining the day while trying to figure out how to get Danny back to his own world without bringing any of the villains back with him.
The film is full of references to Hollywood blockbusters, action films specifically but not wholly. Watch when Danny and Jack show up at the police station for the first time and you’ll see Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick reprising familiar roles and Jean Claude Van Damme pops up in a small cameo as do MC Hammer, Chevy Chase, James Belushi and more. The scene in the Blockbuster Video store features a cardboard stand up display with Sylvester Stallone in place of Schwarzenegger promotion Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arnold uses pretty much all of his catch phrases, ‘I’ll be back’ in particular while on the shelves in the video store VHS boxes for Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October, both directed by John McTiernan, are prominently displayed. There’s even a reference to Amadeus. Little bits like this make the film a lot of fun for movie fans, as much of the referential humor is on the subtle side and isn’t always obvious. Referencing everything from buddy cop movies like the Lethal Weapon films to The Twilight Zone, there’s always something going on in the movie, be it an appearance from Humphrey Bogart himself or a fun poke at one of Schwarzenegger’s own filmography.
The film suffers from pacing in some spots and maybe runs a little longer than it needs to, but Schwarzenegger and O’Brien have a surprisingly good chemistry together there, both handling the comedic aspects of the picture better than you’d probably expect them to. The plot is interesting in that it takes all of the action movie clichés we all know so well and essentially turns them into a large part of the story, but there are still enough fun twists and surprises worked in the script, which was rewritten twice before filming started, that the movie works quite well.
Lots of big, dumb action ensures that the film is a pretty exciting one while some fun supporting performances from the likes of F. Murray Abraham, Sir Ian McKellen, and Art Carney round out the cast nicely.
The Last Action Hero crashes onto Blu-ray in a nice AVC encoded 2.40.1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film is kind of odd looking in that in Danny’s real world, colors are bleak and drab, but in the movie world that he finds himself in, things are bright, bold and colorful. Detail levels are okay, better than standard definition to be sure, but they never approach reference quality levels and sometimes things look just a little bit soft. Skin tones are usually pretty good but are occasionally waxy, though black levels generally stay strong. There aren’t any compression artifacts to complain about nor is there any edge enhancement to note. Most of the idiosyncrasies here have likely got more to do with the way that the movie was shot than anything else, but it does result in a picture with some inconsistencies, intentionally so or not. Regardless, the movie looks good more often than not, and while this won’t jump off the screen at you, it should make fans of the movie happy.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc is just as bombastic and aggressive as you’d expect it to be. There’s a lot of nice, low-end rumble coming from the subwoofer during the action scenes while more subtle scenes, such as when the glass shatters in the police station, comes out of the surround channels beautifully. The levels are well balanced and there are no problems to report with hiss or distortion at all. There are some spots where the ambient and background noise doesn’t sound quite as robust as maybe it should have – listen to scenes that take place on the streets with heavy traffic, there isn’t as much in the rears as you might have wanted – but aside from that, there’s really very little to complain about. It’s a nice, loud, aggressive track that does a fine job of complimenting the movie. Optional DTS-HD 5.1 MA mixes are provided in French and Portuguese while a standard definition DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix is available in Spanish. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portguese.
Extras are slim, limited to some Blu-ray Live connectivity, Sony’s MovieIQ option, and trailers for a few other unrelated Sony properties available on Blu-ray. Animated menus and chapter selection are also included. Considering all of the changes and problems that this film ran into before flopping into theaters, it would have been nice to get some background information on it in the supplements, but that didn’t happen for whatever reason.
The Final Word:
While the extras are weak, the transfer is decent and the audio is excellent. As for the feature itself? The Last Action Hero may not be in the upper echelon of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies but it’s a fun mix of action and comedy that pokes some good natured fun at the Hollywood machine. It’s a fun film in the truest sense of the word and it’s hard not to have a good time with this one.