Plot: Danny (Austin O’Brien) is more interested in cinema than school or friends, so he spends most of his time at a local theater, which is a little frayed, but still shows the newest movies. The theater is operated by Nick (Robert Prosky), who knows the kid should be in his classes, but remembers his own infatuation with the silver screen and cuts him a break. Danny’s favorite is the Jack Slater series, an over the action franchise that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the ultimate action hero cop. Nick is going to have an early screening of the latest Jack Slater picture, so he lets Danny attend the preview and gives him a special ticket, one he has held onto since his own childhood. The movie kicks off just as Danny expects, with explosive action and one liners, but then his ticket starts to glow and he finds himself pulled into the screen. Now he is inside the world of Jack Slater and while he knows the rules of movies well enough to have an edge, can he figure out a way to get home again?
Entertainment Value: This is a fun one, a great blend of high end action movie and an often hilarious comedy about the absurd conventions of cinema, all packaged in a slick, brisk presentation. A movie expert who finds themselves inside a movie wasn’t a brand new concept at this point, but Last Action Hero brings the premise to life with so much enthusiasm and attention to detail. The story takes some fun twists and turns, a kind of satiric love letter to the movies and action films in specific, poking fun at all kinds of genre tropes and the ways cinema asks us to suspend disbelief. All of this unfolds in effective fashion, while Last Action Hero also crafts a great action movie in general, no simple task. The action is top notch, the humor is smart and effective, and the movie is packed with colorful, memorable characters, so Last Action Hero fires on all cylinders and rarely slows down. The lone complaint is that the movie is perhaps a little long, but since the pace is brisk and there’s not a lot of filler, I don’t mind the duration even if it could’ve been trimmed a touch here and there. I think Last Action Hero is a super fun ride for anyone who appreciates action movies, comedies, or cinema in general, given how it is a love letter of sorts to the artistic medium.
You couldn’t pick a more perfect lead for this one, as Arnold Schwarzenegger has the action movie pedigree and the offbeat sense of humor to make the role work, so this is more or less a vehicle for his talents. His performance is over the top, but it should be, as Jack Slater is a dialed up version of the kind of action hero roles Arnold is known for, though he does deliver some Shakespeare with a vengeance. He embraces the material and isn’t afraid to poke at himself, which opens a lot of potential for the humor, which the script takes advantage of. I’ve seen some people complain about the silliness he brings to the role, but it makes perfect sense and given that comedy is a prominent part of Last Action Hero, that criticism seems off base. A good action hero needs a good villain and Charles Dance fills that role quite well here, as the campy, but still effective Benedict and his colorful eyeballs. He is a lot of fun to watch and runs with the tuned up bad guy, including a classic scene where he discusses the different between a 180 and a 360 with Anthony Quinn. The cast also includes Danny O’Brien, Art Carney, Tom Noonan, F. Murray Abraham, and Mercedes Ruehl.
The Disc: Mill Creek has given us a Blu-ray release of Last Action Hero and while the movie might not pop off the screen, it looks good here and is the best I’ve seen the movie on home video. The visuals are stylized in this one, from the grimy, bleak texture of the real world to the saturated, high gloss of the movie world, so the transfer bears the weight of those creative decisions. I found detail to be strong, if not remarkable, while contrast leans toward the darker end, but that has always been the case with the movie, so no issues there. All in all, I think fans will be satisfied with this presentation, as it is more than solid.