Today! Because I remember the first time I got shot out of a cannon –
True Lies (1994)
Directed by James Cameron (x4)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (x3), Jamie Lee Curtis (x3), Tom Arnold, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton (x6), Grant Heslov, Eliza Dushku (x2), Charlton Heston (x2), Art Malik
I have a tendency to forget how balls-out insane the climax of this movie gets, because the brilliant middle section of the film pulls the action-adventure epic so far into straight comedy. In a lot of ways, True Lies is the ultimate ’90s action film, while somehow working as a terrific parody of the genre and cinematic era in general. It’s hard to tell if the movie builds toward the utterly ludicrous final showdown as a way of satirizing the bombastic action movies of the day and before, or if it just wanted to try and top them all. Amazingly, it works in either fashion, from certain points of view.
Schwarzenegger’s recent forays into full-on comedy with the likes of Kindergarten Cop and Twins served him well playing secret-agent-disguised-as-computer-salesman (albeit a super jacked one) Harry Tasker. His James Bond/Rambo operative gets off plenty of jokes and light-touch comic moments, amidst the daring and derring-do, opposite great comedy turns by Tom Arnold and Grant Heslov as his team members, Jamie Lee Curtis as his unsuspecting wife, and especially the late, great Extreme, Bill Paxton, as the oily car salesman gaslighting as a secret agent himself. When this middle section of the film starts, it feels like a wild left turn in the plot – up until then, we are just following a fun but routine spy-centric plot about smuggled weapons and Tia Carrere’s revealing eveningwear – but quickly resources are diverted, attention is shifted, and Paxton’s sleezy Simon is full center. While this whole sequence does open the door for all the wacky complications that lead to the film’s kidnap escaping/nuclear explosion/helicopter-limo rescue/Harrier jet-skyscraper third act, it also is the true genius stroke of the film, even if it only tangentially matters to the story. Without Simon trying to seduce Helen, you’d have an undoubtedly fun but pretty standard Schwarzenegger romp. Forever MVP the Extreme! Continue reading