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The Last Action Hero
The Last Dragon

The Last Action Hero

What He said:

Have you ever come across a movie that feels like it has read your mind? A story that plays out like it has reached inside you, grabbed all that intangible stuff that makes you who you are, and somehow puts it on the big screen? I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I remember this movie making me feel exactly like that. I recall being extremely entertained by this movie, so I was looking forward to revisiting something from my childhood that makes me smile

The Last Action Hero

Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) is the kind of kid who, shall we say, lacks focus. The kid is your classic dreamer. He cuts school to hang out an old movie there where he watches movies all day and night. I get that. I wish I could spend all day with fictional characters, watching all of their exciting adventures too, but I know that’s not possible. I knew it wasn’t possible when I was his age too, because I never had the balls to cut school the way this kid did (college isn’t the same). I wasn’t overly obsessed with getting good grades, but I was afraid what would happen to me if I didn’t at least try. I was too afraid of failing or even repeating a grade or two. That didn’t appeal to me at all. I didn’t want to go to school more than I already had to. But Danny, Danny just doesn’t care. He spends all of his time at this old rundown theater with the old guy who runs the joint, Nick, watching both old and new movies alike.

It probably has something to do with the fact that his father has passed away – and he is trying to avoid coping with it – but even that said, nothing traumatic like that happened to me as a kid and watching movies all day like that still appealed to me. It still does now. So, I understand Danny. Fiction is fun. It’s exciting, full of laughs, adventure, and experiences that we will never get to experience. I get this kid.

The Last Action Hero

Danny is a huge fan of the Jack Slater series. Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is your classic action hero. No, he is the action hero. He’s big, strong, macho, and never loses; but you know you’re going to watch his latest adventure each and every time, because he’s just that awesome. He’s the kind of character that boys – and the boys who still live inside men – would love to be. 

So anyway, Danny is at the theater watching Jack Slater III – which he’s seen at least a dozen times – in preparation for Jack Slater IV. During this latest trip to the theater, Nick (Robert Prosky) tells him that he is going to be viewing Slater IV at midnight to make sure the film looks and sounds good. He invites Danny to a private screening (get your minds out of the gutter, this movie is 100% good, clean, innocent fun). Danny is already on thin ice with his mother, and she would never allow this, but that’s never stopped him from sneaking out before. Danny tells Nick he’ll be there.

When he leaves, he actually gets caught cutting school and his mom is furious with him. She’s a single mom though and has to go to work later that evening, so when she leaves, he sneaks out anyway. The temptation of seeing Jack Slater IV before it’s released is just too great. This will be a night Danny never forget and not because he snuck out after being grounded.

When Danny gets to the theater Nick is dressed up in an old fashioned theater uniform. It’s got a hat and all! It’s hard to imagine a time when people took pride in their business they would dress up the people who take your tickets. It’s old fashioned and pretty cool if you ask me. So anyway, Nick gives Danny a special ticket when he gets there. He says Houdini gave it to him as a kid and that it’s magic. Neither one of them believe this of course, but they are both going along with the whole thing. Danny can see Nick really gets a kick out of this little bit of showmanship, so he humors the old guy and takes the ticket.

The Last Action Hero

A little while later, with the theater all to himself, Danny is enjoying this later chapter in his favorite series. Jack is doing is usual dispatching of bad guys thing, when suddenly, something strange happens. Jack is involved in a car chase with a bunch of henchmen and one of them throws dynamite toward his car. Jack – being the crack shot that he is – shoots it and misdirects it away from this car before it can do any damage. Where does it land? In the movie theater or course! It comes through the movie screen and lands in the isle. Danny hears the hissing of the burning fuse, but is in disbelief. It explodes, and the next thing he knows, he is in the backseat of Jack’s car. Jack sees him and is very confused as to why this kid is hiding out in the backseat of his car, but must continue to fend off the henchmen.

Danny is taken on the ride of his life, not simply because he’s in a car chase between the cops and the bad guys, but because he’s in a movie car chase. You know, the kind where cars blow up for no reason, cops can shoot at the bad guys without looking and not hit any innocent people, and for some reasons rock music is playing in the background.

Once things settle down, Jack wants to know who the hell Danny is and how the hell he ended up in his car.  Danny tries to explain that they are in a movie – he goes to great lengths to support his argument too – but Jack just think he’s nuts. Everyone thinks he’s nuts. And why wouldn’t they? The kid walks around telling everybody they are fictional characters and they’re all in movie. Despite this, Danny is made Jack’s partner, a fact that he openly mocks and uses to support his argument. I love how self-aware this movie is by the way. It’s not one to shy away from making fun of movie logic.

The Last Action Hero

So Danny tags along for Jack’s latest case, which is to investigate the latest with mob boss Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn). One of Vivaldi’s henchmen – a sniper named Benedict – is actually the main villain of the movie. Because Jack is snooping around too much, and getting close to busting Vivaldi, Benedict intervenes in Jack’s life. Because he intervenes in Jack’s life, he finds out about this theory this crazy kid that has been tagging along with him has about them all being a part of a movie. Long story short, Benedict (Charles Dance) gets his hands on the magic ticket and uses it to flee to the real world.

Despite what he saw, Jack isn’t totally on board with Danny’s theory yet, but he’s about to get a rude awakening. After spending a little time in the real New York City, he comes to the realization that he is indeed a fictional character. It suddenly hurts when he punches through a window, cars don’t blow up from a single gunshot – and worst of all – Jack sees a billboard for Jack Slater IV, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jack is devastated. Who wouldn’t be? Imagine being told that you aren’t real or that someone else is controlling your life? Arnold isn’t known for his acting skills, but this movie, and the character’s reaction to this news, is some of his better work.  The movie is actually pretty good at creating some emotion considering it’s a comedy. He isn’t sure what to do with himself at this point.

Danny manages to convince him that, for now at least, he needs to stop Benedict, who is planning on wreaking some havoc in New York City, with help from others. Benedict has brought the villain of Slater III into the real world to keep Jack distracted. The character, known as The Ripper, is played by Tom Noonan. So now Jack has to face two villains in the real world – a world where “the bad guys can win.”

To hell with the critics, this movie is genius. It’s a brilliant spoof of the action genre. Perhaps the most genius part is the fact that Arnold is in it. The biggest name in action movies makes a spoof of action movies. That is freaking brilliant. Kudos to whoever cast him and kudos to him for taking the part – and really running with it too. He really pokes fun at himself the genre that make him famous.

The Last Action Hero

Great work by director John McTiernan and writer Shane Black, both of him have roots in action movies. McTiernan is best known for Predator and Die Hard and Black has Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, and The Last Boy Scout on his resume. I give credit to the both of them for being able to create a movie that makes fun of the types of movies they made all throughout the 80s. These guys made some of the biggest action movies of the 80s and here they are mocking it (and doing a really good job at it).

This movie works because it’s funny, the acting is good, and the action is still entertaining even if it is a parody.
The humor is fast and furious. It has all the one-liners you’d expect in an action movie and more. The main character spends half the movie telling people they are caricatures and pointing out just how cliché, predictable, and ridiculous the world they live in is. Every time they do something expected of a character in an action movie, Danny is right there saying, “See, see!” and none of them get it. It’s hilarious.

Speaking of Danny, Austin O’Brien has wonderful chemistry with Arnold. Considering one is a kid – and would never ever be made the partner of a police officer – and the other is…well Arnold, the banter between these two is fantastic and makes for an excellent buddy cop movie.  

This movie is actually loaded with good performance. Charles Dance is awesome as Benedict, the main bad guy. The guy is straight out of an 80s action movie. He’s an excellent shot – I’m talking freakish good – fears no cop, and has a glass eye for God’s sake. How cool is that? Tom Noonan is creepy as hell too. I remember being terrified of the Ripper as a kid. Frank McCrae is a riot as Slater’s boss, Lieutenant Dekker. His is the stereotypical angry boss who screams at Slater for breaking all the rules (Slater catches the bad guys, but does it on his own terms). The acting in this movie is seriously genius. I love the guy who plays Nick too. He's totally the cool old guy you want to hang out and shoot the shit with. Forget when I was a kid, I'd chill with him now.

Besides being really funny, one thing I always loved about this movie was the whole fantasy aspect of it. Maybe I was the right age when I saw this for the first time, because I could see myself in Danny’s shoes when I was a kid. Hell, I still do now. I envy the kid. I’d love to be able to go on an adventure alongside my favorite fictional characters. It would be a blast.

Critics might not have liked this movie, but fans do. It’s earned a following since its release. Truthfully, I think it was a little head of its time. Glad people like it a little more now. It’s a really smart and funny movie.  

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on July 21, 2014.

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