Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Favorite Era: True Lies (1994)

With the large gap between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye, the film world was starved for something sort of like James Bond.  Happily, in 1994 James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to give the world a gift.

Said gift is an entertaining, fun thrill ride that combines the over the top stuff you normally find in the James Bond films with a little more humor than usual.  True Lies is basically a remake of a French film called La Totale which concerns a man who has managed to keep his job as a spy a secret from his family for many years, until something inevitably goes awry.  James Cameron has extended the plot into something more grandiose and crowd-pleasing with loads of action, things blowing up, one-liners and fun.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Love the little nod to Goldfinger as Harry Tasker (Arnie) infiltrates a party in Switzerland underwater, surfacing and removing his wetsuit to reveal a pristine tuxedo.  This is the big thing that makes this movie so much fun, it throws in little nods to what came before without being snide about it.  Contrast this approach with something like xXx where the filmmakers were just complete jerks hell-bent on proving themselves better to the point of alienating anyone who might be watching (and failing miserably).
  • Arnold is just wonderfully amusing in this film.  Cool and relaxed, he is much more engaging here than in his previous movie The Last Action Hero.  Funny how the less he tries, the better his performance tends to be.  Weird.
  • The rest of the cast is fun too with Tom Arnold pulling off a shockingly likable performance as Harry's partner; Jamie Lee Curtis is funny as the long suffering wife and Art Malik makes for a nicely nutty villain, though seeing the old stock terrorist tropes these days make this an interesting watch from a historical point of view.  Tia Carrere is also enjoyable as the obligatory femme fatale.  Also amusing is Charlton Heston as Harry's boss.
  • The best thing about this film is just how effortlessly relaxed it is.  The bad guys are planning to blow up some nukes but for the most part, everything is treated with a light touch (this is the closest Cameron has ever come to making a comedy) and you can just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
  • The stuff between the action is pretty damn good too as Harry finds out his wife Helen is having an affair with a guy who turns out to be a used car salesman posing as a spy.  Bill Paxton is hilarious as usual as the aforementioned salesman and the middle portion of the film is dedicated to this subplot.  It works fairly well (though to be frank, Harry is a real dick here) and when the real bad guys come back it ends up being a nice surprise.
  • Action is pretty fantastic with a nice shootout at the beginning, a fun confrontation in a bathroom that leads to a bike vs. horse chase and the last  forty minutes are just Arnold letting loose as he says "To hell with this spy stuff, I'm just gonna shoot as many guys as I can until the film ends!"  The mayhem is topped off by a fun sequence with Harry commandeering a Harrier to save his daughter and save the day.
  • Special credit has to go to Curtis who pretty much owns the middle of the film.  She's funny, sexy and amusingly badass in the last third of the film.
  • I also love the film's sense of humor.  Arnold is funny as usual but even the bad guys have some amusing bits: The battery on a camera being used to tape terrorist demands running out is my favorite.  The rest of the film is equally fun as even the threat of nuclear destruction is treated in sort of a comic book manner.  It works quite well.
True Lies is a witty, thoroughly enjoyable spy action/comedy with a strong sense of fun, good acting and good action.  It's one of Cameron's best, one of Arnold's best and just overall good entertainment.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.