True Lies (1994)
I was rescued from watching Last Action Hero by a very fortunate turn of events. My good friend Andrew noticed that one of our Alamo Drafthouses was showing a nice 35mm print of True Lies! Talk about impressive timing. Screw Last Action Hero, let's go see one of my favorite Arnold movies instead! The presentation was excellent as well as this was one of the Drafthouse's "Tough Guy Cinema" showings, and the presenter was really energetic and enthusiastic and he set off pyrotechnics and confetti during key scenes that, rather than distracting from the movie, I found made it all the more fun. Along with Conan, that now makes 2 Arnold movies I've seen just this year at an Alamo Drafthouse, so thanks guys and keep up the great work!
Special Honorable Mention to Andrew here... While I've been working my way through Arnold's body of work, he's watched nearly as many of these as I have. I think to date we've now watched 4 of them together and he's watched at least another 3-4 on his own. Heck, he even put Hercules on in the background one day. Has been fun to share the ride with him.
Anyway, back to the movie: True Lies. One of, if not the best, movies Arnold has made. This is right up there with Conan for me. Hard to pick one of those two as top since they're such completely different movies, but this is pretty much the definitive Arnold movie. Once again James Cameron really knows how to get a good performance out of his actors and the excellent blend of action, comedy, drama, and Ahnold in this movie keeps it as fresh now as it was when it first came out. Pure escapist fun and I must have laughed out loud 30+ times during this. Above all, the level of excellence is very consistent here and it doesn't come off contrived or goofy or any of what I think I'm going to run into quite a bit with Last Action Hero.
Arnold is in top form again and this movie is how I like to picture him. He's suave as a spy, a smartass with his partner, vulnerable with his family, and blows lots of shit up. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously, yet manages to still maintain a certain realism that maintains the suspension of disbelief very nicely. It's very much Cameron's nod to the Bond films and has the humor of a Roger Moore Bond movie without being hopelessly self-serving and cheesy. Arnold is given many many wonderful opportunities to glare at/kill people, but also a tremendous amount of character depth for an action movie. One of my favorite moments (I could easily list 20+) is Arnold acting shell shocked after finding out his wife is having an affair. It's perfectly played and, for added brilliance, is offset by Tom actually being happy for him that he's finally been the victim of an affair as well. The rapid pace and deft movement between action/comedy/drama across the film is impressive and frequently happens within a given scene. Great, great stuff.
Special appreciation to Tom here, as he usually irritates the hell out of me in most films, but his character is so perfect a foil to Arnold's, and his delivery is so spot-on, that you can't help but be entertained. His "What kind of sick bitch takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer" line is inspired, but so are the little exchanges like "Dickhead" "Blow me"... So much rapid fire fun dialog in there.
We need more movies like this. I love a good drama, and crying at a film is okay, but when I go to a movie, this is what I'm always secretly hoping for. Take me on a ride and entertain the hell out of me and I'll be back time and time again.
Ahnold Quotient - 11
Yep, they cranked the knob to 11 for this one. It has everything from the nods and winks to the glares to the blowing shit up. I guess we don't see him without his shirt that I can recall (although he does run around with it open for a bit), but that's more than made up for by the steady stream of testosterone-laden scenes and the crazy number of one-liners. Only Cameron can cram in that much AQ without dipping it in cheese.
Rewatchability - Yes please
Any time, any place. If I ever hear someone hasn't watched this, it makes me want to drag them to the nearest screen and have them watch it immediately. I'm sure it's possible, but I've never heard of anyone not being genuinely entertained by this movie. We have Cameron and Arnold at their peak of creativity and performance, and I'm so glad we have this wonderful gift from them.