Often overlooked without a particular reason, Last Action Hero is not just a fun and original nineties action comedy. It’s also a meta-movie, confidently breaking the fourth wall and yet remaining just as effective as all the other action movies of that time. Under the direction of none other than John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The 13th Warrior) anything is possible. Last Action Hero is a movie that’s at the same time a tribute, parody, and a whole new breed of action comedy. One of the first modern meta movies, effortlessly charming us into submission, it’s a must-see.
We will be following a young boy who’s suddenly transported into the world of action movies. A world ruled by one tough detective Jack Slater, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. As soon as he read the script, Arnie jumped at the opportunity to work again with McTiernan. He said, at the time, that it was the best script he ever read, complex, funny, and intelligent. You have to remember that Arnie was on top of his game back then. Total Recall and Terminator 2 made him a superstar just a couple of years earlier.
Apart from him we also have Charles Dance as Benedict, a cunning and dangerous killer, Ian McKellen, Tom Noonan, and many others. Last Action Hero is a love letter to all those action movies we grew up with. It offers a refreshing take on a familiar theme and leans heavily into all the popular cliches. If you’re looking for a more modern example of this, The Other Guys ticks almost all of the boxes. However, that’s a buddy cop movie while this is more of a single tough cop movie. At the time of its release, Last Action Hero didn’t do so well.
People were not expecting a meta movie but a straight-up action comedy starring their favorite actor. However, as time went on, more and more people started to appreciate what the movie was trying to do. And here we are, thirty years later, completely in love with the concept. Well, at least I am, and that has not changed ever since I first saw this movie. I didn’t care about this whole meta thing or anything else. I wanted to be transported to the world of action movies and remain there forever.
Danny Madigan is a young boy living in a rough New York neighborhood. To escape his dreary environment, he immerses himself into the world of movies. His favorite hero is Jack Slater, an action hero who always gets the bad guys. One day, a cinema operator gives Danny a magical movie ticket that has the ability to transport him into the world of any movie he watches. And as it just so happens to be he ends in the latest Jack Slater movie, right next to him. The only problem is how does he get out of it?
Last Action Hero is a big movie with a big budget of over $85 million. This means the production values are excellent, further immersing you into this magical realm. And since these are the early nineties you can forget about the CGI and all that other crap. Moreover, you can also count on some pretty strong content for a PG-13 release. I mean, the opening scene with Tom Noonan as Ripper holding a bunch of children hostage always scared the shit out of me when I was younger. And the body count is 86.
With a running time of just over two hours, this is an entertaining masterpiece that’s going to take up your whole evening. It’s full of not just action but hilarious exchanges and cool creative details. Like Stallone starring in the Terminator franchise instead of Arnie complete with a giant poster of him in a video store. And I didn’t even mention all the cameos. And I won’t as I want you to enjoy them to catch you off-guard.
Director: John McTiernan
Writers: Zak Penn, Adam Leff, Shane Black
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Charles Dance, Austin O’Brien, Tom Noonan
Fun Facts: Arnold Schwarzenegger was the executive producer in charge of many aspects of this movie. He even toned down the violence and got the movie a PG-13 rating in order for it to appeal to a broader audience. Unfortunately, Jurassic Park opened on the same weekend and made Last Action Hero not perform so well on the box office.