Aftermath

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The big man is back, this time he’s gunning for revenge against the bad guy who murdered his family…. except it’s not the 80s anymore and this isn’t an action movie. Aftermath takes the true life story of a mid air collision between two airplanes, and one man’s quest for justice in the (insert title). Those looking for scenes of Arnie gunning down hordes of terrorists and quipping one-liners will be disappointed, but for more dedicated Arnie fans like me who are just happy that he’s still working, this is a unique oddity in his filmography.

Since stepping down as The Governator, Arnie has been expanded his dramatic chops more. He still throws down in old school Action flicks such as Sabotage and The Last Stand, he has made smaller films in quieter dramas such as Maggie or notable cameos like in Killing Gunther. Aftermath sees him star as an unassuming builder looking forward to the arrival of his wife and pregnant daughter, only to receive the news that they have tied in an air traffic accident. The film isn’t only his story, his is paralleled (just like the intersecting paths of the airplanes, get it?) by the air traffic controller who is ostensibly blamed for the incident. The film follows both characters, one racked with guilt, the other fueled by a need to hear someone apologize for what has happened, both suffering from different losses in different ways.

The film is well acted though strangely uneventful. There is a quietness to the emotional content which never wallows in grief or in breakdown, instead showing the simple void of shock and misunderstanding which surrounds loss. It is almost played like a TV drama – in terms of music, direction, writing, there is nothing out of the ordinary beyond the big name cast. It seems like a strange choice for Schwarzenegger as this was never going to be a money maker or raise his profile in any way, so we can only assume it was the story and character he was interested in. Just one side note – while the film ended essentially how you expect it to once its big shock is out of the way (I didn’t think the film would take the turn that it did), it did leave me wishing that one side character got his comeuppance. It’s immature and fruitless, but when dickish characters get away with their dickish behaviour in movies or TV, it pisses me off because I know that’s what tends to happen in real life. We like seeing these scumbags getting tossed off buildings or arrested etc because its escapism. There is a textbook smarmy lawyer in the film (played by good old Terry from Dawn Of The Dead) who refuses to look at a photograph of Arnie’s family, instead smirking with his Gordon Gecko hair and sitting smug in the knowledge that Arnie will never succeed in court. It would have been nice to see Arnie ram his fist into this guy’s stomach and break his Goddamn spine, but alas. The main issue with this is, there’s no way this character is a real person – for such a sensitive event, no firm in the world is going to send such a repugnant asshole – every firm in the world would be bending over backwards to make you feel good and freaking the hell out that they could lose.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Aftermath!

Red Heat and Red Sonja double review

*Originally written in 2003

Another of Arnie’s minor 80’s hits which sees him play a KGB agent who must team up with the wise-cracking Art, played by James Belushi, to find an escaped Russian drug dealer. There is plenty of comedy between the two, Arnie maintains his most stern face, and the action is okay. It just lacks the real spark or something special which made his classics…special classics…

The cast is pretty good, with Fishburne and Gina Gershon giving decent minimal support while O’Ross is an average bad guy. The plot is basic, the script is fine, but there is not enough action to keep the film moving at a fast pace. While there are some good one-liners and it is all light-hearted, this was the peak period of buddy movies, and there are better -Arnie himself has made a few. Up against those more obvious buddy action movies, this seems stale and by the numbers. It is true that Arnie was beginning to show his comic side – he is a funny guy, and would go on to make both better action movies and comedies. Arnie fans will enjoy it, others will find some entertainment from it, but it has few memorable moments to keep us coming back for more.

Red Sonja (also written in 2003)

Rather than make another Conan film, someone decided to make this unofficial spin-off fantasy yarn staring Brigitte Nielson as Sonja and Arnie as Kalidor. The Evil Queen Gedren steals a mystical talisman from a group of virginal priestess warriors, and butchers them all in the process. She plans to unleash a great evil on the world, but one of her victims was the sister of Sonja, a fearless warrior. Sonja decides to find Gedren, stop her plans, and get revenge. On her way she meets an impudent young Prince and his servant, and Kalidor – a great swordsman. Together they try to save the world, but Kalidor and Sonja still wish to prove to each other who is the superior fighter.

Unfortunately the whole film looks cheap, and most of the effects aren’t great. Even the sweeping camera-work used to great effect in Conan the Barbarian is nowhere near as good here, and the plot is basic. Arnie is good in the role, but his part is not very big. Nielson is okay, credit must go to both for their training and stunt-work, but she fails to show any worthwhile emotion. The character is not given much depth, focused on revenge rather than going through any grieving process. The young Prince is constantly annoying, but he and his master do provide a few laughs. Sandahl Bergman is good as Gedren, but she has begun to be typecast which is unfortunate as she is a fine actress. The action is good, but without proper involvement in the story it seems hollow. Arnie fans should enjoy it, but it is vastly inferior to his later and prior classics.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of either of these two movies – low ranked in the Arnie canon, or a personal favourite?

Raw Deal

*Originally written in 2003

In the eighties Arnie was the action movie King, but Raw Deal is not one of his best. The plot is simple and though there is a lot of action, it is average stuff and there are few memorable moments.

Arnie stars as Mark, an ex FBI agent, now a small town sheriff. When a mob boss murders a group of people including the son of Harry Shannon, an old friend of Mark’s, Harry enlists Mark to infiltrate the mob guy Patrovina’s business, and ultimately get revenge. Mark fakes his own death, changes his identity, and goes undercover. Soon follows much mayhem and explosions as Arnie tries to prove his loyalty to Patrovina while avoiding suspicion by the henchmen. Ninety minutes later, Arnie and the bad guys have a final showdown. You may forget that somewhere his wife is waiting.

This is simply an excuse for Arnie to show his muscles, his deadpan delivery, and crunch a few bones. The action and stunts are okay, there are a few good one-liners (such as the one involving drinking and cake making), and the film is pretty relaxed in spite of all the violence. The cast is pretty good, Robert Davi and Arnie have good chemistry, and everyone seems to ham it up and enjoy themselves. Oh yeah, why is it every Arnie film has a character, or a reference to someone called Harry? Or Huuaarrry, as Arnie says. It just adds to his legend I suppose…

Let us know in the comments what you think of Raw Deal!

Sabotage

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Of all of the Arnie films which have been released since The Governator stepped down, Sabotage is by far the most violent. The deaths, of which there are many, are realistic and grim, bloody and remorseless. Bystanders and main characters all meet their doom without fanfare, most of the main crew are unlikable, and you should not expect a happy tale of ending like most of the classics from Arnie’s catalogue. Ayer brings the realism and a well-written script from a dialogue perspective, but the story is uneven, and the characters have essentially no room for growth; these are grunts only good for firing or being filled with bullets.

The film begins with a full-throttle, full-blooded drug heist. Immediately we see that the action movie of today is much more grounded in ‘realism’ than previous decades – the group attacks like a group, using tactics and planning that the writers have pulled from real world scenarios, rather than John Woo or Commando attacks. Our group are part of the DEA, but it transpires that they have plotted to wipe out the bad guys, burn most of the money, and keep $10 million for themselves. However, someone double crosses them and their money is lost, setting the rest of the plot in motion. There is intrigue, mistrust, fragile brotherhood, paranoia, and a lot of bloodshed as the group tries to cover their own tracks while investigating who stole their money – the tension heightened when they begin to get picked off.

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As an action film, the movie ticks all the boxes – the gunfights are varied, realistic, and exciting – well-executed and convincing, and with a trilling car chase conclusion. The plot as a whole is fine, offering a number of twists and plenty of funny dialogue. The problem though is that everyone is a jerk, and the films offers little in the way of characterization or attempts at empathy. Arnie’s family are killed – we don’t care. The group are picked off one by one – we don’t care; in fact, the group themselves don’t care. They are presented as a close-knit force which has been through all kinds of hell multiple times, yet when they are killed off in increasingly gruesome ways, none of them seems to mind that they have lost a friend or that they may be next. Each of the characters relies on machismo and violence, but not a lot else, meaning there is little or no distinction between them – one is a woman, one is married to the woman, one has muscles, another has bigger muscles etc etc. It’s a pity, because it wastes what is an otherwise stellar cast. If we got a bit of background on each, or even – Aliens style – a few moments or examples of individuality whether it be a look, a quote, a style of speaking, it would have been a stronger film. The films does try to do this with a collection of haircuts and accents, but it fails as a whole.

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The story almost tries to throw too many twists, and too many characters into the mix. I can’t say that it keeps you guessing, because you likely won’t care enough to guess, but I wouldn’t say it is predictable. It’s all about the action and the bloodshed, and it does give an unflinching look at a world most of us would never want to glimpse. It’s great to see Arnie back to doing what he does best, although his finest moments come towards the end of the movie. The rest of the cast, or stunt cast, are exemplary in the set-pieces, as are the special effects. Arnie has a similar gruff persona to his role in End Of Days, but with less charm, while the rest of the cast do well in their roles – they may not be likable, but they’re good at convincing us of that fact. Action movie and Arnie fans should be happy with the movie, but those expecting something more, or those hoping for another Arnie classic, may be disappointed. It’s still a decent entry for Arnie, with stronger action than his final few pre-Governator films, but doesn’t come close to the likes of Predator, Commando, Terminator, or Conan The Barbarian.

Have you seen Sabotage? How do you think it compares to recent action movies and Arnie movies of old? Let us know in the comments!

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Escape Plan

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Was there any greater dream of the 80s action movie fan than seeing Arnie and Sly team up in the same movie? Aside from perhaps appearing in an Arnie or Sly movie yourself, the answer is no. While we had a few close calls in previous decades, with JCVD popping up in Last Action Hero, and various in jokes between Stallone and Schwarzenegger in a number of movies, it wasn’t until The Expendables that those dreams came true. Unfortunately, Arnie was still in politics at the time, and not free for a large role – the same can be said for the sequels. Finally, Escape Plan came along – a fully fledged tag-team between the two titans. While not exactly having the balance of buddy-cop movies of the 80s where two stars would have equal billing and screen time, this is a Stallone led vehicle with Arnie providing stellar support – is it worth the wait?

Well, it still would have been nice seeing the duo together at their peak. Here, the elder statesmen of neck-snapping quips play aged, experienced battlers who are thrown together in a novel twist on the ‘Die Hard in a boat/house/plane/prison’ genre. The film centres on Ray Breslin (Stallone), a security consultant who, in convoluted Mission Impossible style, is hired by corporations to test the security of prisons – namely, how easy or difficult it is to escape from them. Going undercover as a prisoner, he works out an Escape Plan, and always succeeds. When the CIA offer Breslin a massive amount of money to test a new State of the Art prison, Breslin is suspicious but accepts – the twist being that none of his colleagues can know where he is going. A high concept idea to be sure, but one which leaves plenty of room for smart action and ridiculous solutions to absurd problems – good fun.

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Without spoiling too many of the twists and double-crosses involved, Stallone is held by a dastardly warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), hounded by guards and prisoners alike, and strikes up an uneasy partnership with prisoner Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). Breslin must use all his experience to try to escape, but who can he trust? We get various scenes of Breslin pushing and probing with inmates and workers, with his cell and surrounding security systems, and he gradually chips away at the prison until cracks start to show, and the overall puzzle begins to piece together.

Unlike most of the other Stallone renaissance films, this one is fairly light on action, and with a heavier focus on plot and tension. Although we have the two greatest action movie stars in movie history teaming up, we have a stellar supporting cast with Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, and even Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent putting in decent performances. While not exactly The Shawshank Redemption, and while we always feel that Stallone will get free and wipe out the bad guys, it’s good fun trying to work out how he will get to that point. The last twenty minutes or so contain most of the action as Stallone races against the clock to get free and dispatch the bad guys via good old fists and gunplay. Aside from that, we get an occasional scuffle in the prison as the various groups of inmates and guards clash. The story and the performances are engaging enough that we don’t miss the action, and when it comes it is effective and worth the wait.

As mentioned, this is a movie which fans of the central stars will relish. There may be disappointment from some fans that the action levels aren’t high, but this should please most viewers like myself who grew up on Terminator and Rambo. There may not be too many quotable lines or memorable kills, but it’s a glossy, well made, and well acted movie, perfectly enjoyable throwaway stuff which is still welcome even it arrived a couple of decades late.

Have you seen Escape Plan? How do you think it fares against other recent Stallone and Schwarzenegger films, or do you think the pair are past it? Let us know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesdays – Arnold Schwarzenegger

In this new series of posts I’m going to list ten of my favourite films by some of my most loved directors and actors. While I may not have seen everything that they have done, I’ll catch up to them eventually. For some of the posts, I’ll be adding films I’m not as keen on to ensure a list of ten so be on the look out for your favourites. The ordering of most of these posts will not be strict and in most cases there will not be too much difference between my number 1 pick and my number 5 pick.

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesdays. Today we’ll be looking at one of the true icons of cinema in the latter half of the 20th Century, and arguably the finest modern day example of The American Dream. Schwarzenegger has conquered in everything he has done, and though will critics will forever mock his acting ability and accent, he laughs at such minor squabbles knowing that he could still break their necks like a chicken’s. Arnie was the second movie star I understood as being an actor – a person who actually works in films as a job and that people pay money to go see a movie purely because he is in it (my first was Bruce Lee). In fact, I can still remember clearly having a conversation when I was no more than seven years old on who would win a fight between Arnie and Bruce Lee (despite the fact that Lee was long dead). We eventually agreed that, if purely hand to hand it would be Lee, but if weapons of any kind were involved that Arnie would be victorious.

Arnie has been busy since he returned to acting, and while he has had more misses than hits in his twilight years, each film has had its merits, whether it be an action sequence, one-liner, or simple weary raised eyebrow from the big man. For now though, I present my (slightly cheating) Top Ten Arnie movies. There are a number of decent movies skipped here, and while they each present some fine action or comedy they don’t compete (for me) with the greatness on display below. Lets waste no time.

10. Kindergarten Cop

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Arnie has proven time and time again that he has great comic timing and understands a joke as well as any Eddie Murphy or other famous comedy laughter person. Of course it helps when the surrounding cast are strong, when the story is entertaining, and the Director knows how to play the strengths of everyone involved. Kindergarten Cop is the finest example of Arnie’s comedy, with a stellar support cast of villains, cops, kids, and white collar types. Not only is there a bunch of great one-liners and gut-hurting scenes (all the responses to Arnie’s questions which the kids give are gold), but there’s a perfectly fine plot in there too, with Arnie hunting down a criminal who wants to find his estranged wife and son (somehow becoming a teacher along the way). Some will likely choose Twins over this (and some freaks may even go for Junior) and while both are good I think KC just edges it for me.

9. End Of Days

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The best of Arnie’s last few films before he hopped into politics, End Of Days plays well on a number of topical for the time, and still prevalent fears – fears that something apocalyptically terrible is about to happen, fear of loss, loneliness, and of giving up. Throw in some good old fashioned religious fear-mongering and a terrific turn by Gabriel Byrne, and this is one which deserves another look. It was the first time Arnie was not a superhero, instead being a broken, suicidal, alcoholic always one bad day away from blowing his brains out. Who better then to stop the Antichrist from bringing Hell on Earth? This is a grimly gorgeous movie with some superb action and a number of good supporting performances.

8. True Lies

Before Cameron became, “James Cameron, 3D Champion of the Oceans” he used to regularly make awesome movies. This was his final movie with Arnie to date (until Arnie is added to one of the Avatar sequels and immediately makes it awesome) and while it’s the weakest of the bunch, it’s the most fun. Poking fingers at various action blockbuster franchises, True Lies sees Arnie at his most charismatic as a terrorism-infiltrating spy who also must act as the white bread family man to Jamie Lee Curtis and Eliza Dushku. While each piece of action is superbly directed and thrilling, once again props must go to the surrounding cast and their escapades – Jamie Lee Curtis being drafted as a spy and changing from a straight-laced housewife to a super-hot vixen, and Bill Paxton as a slimy, cowardly, predatory pervert provide laughs and memorable moments. Remember the classics Cameron, come on!

7. Last Action Hero

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Speaking of remembering the classics, John McTiernan was once one of the finest action directors in Hollywood, but recently he has been stuck in prison and declaring bankruptcy. The Nineties are known for a string of meta, post-modern, self-referential movies, with Scream, Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare being two of the most famous. Before those though, Last Action Hero sucked up the whole action genre – its strengths, weaknesses, its stars, its flops, everything, and made one of the best satires on a genre ever. The film is a treat for genre fans, and should be loved by movie fans as a whole, but for some reason it just didn’t fly with movie-going audiences at the time. Although it was a success, the big budget versus the returns wasn’t as wide a margin as was hoped, and critics were not impressed. It was love at first sight with me, and going back it’s as fresh as ever. Again, Arnie’s comedy chops are on display, making fun of himself and his career with a glint in his eye, and again there is a strong support cast with Charles Dance and Austin O’Brien being memorable. There’s a decent, silly rock soundtrack and a tonne of cameos, as well as wonderfully over the top action and its fair share of new and reused one-liners.

6. The Running Man

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A more camp and cheesy retelling of King’s much darker novella, this is a roller coaster ride of violence and fun, with Arnie punching and shooting his way through a series of vicious games and powerful gladiator types. The film still works well today as a satire on entertainment – how we watch, the distance we put between ourselves and the horrors on screen, the increasing level of power networks have, and the money we throw and love we throw at our favourite stars for little in return (I’m aware of the irony in creating this list). But us action fans come for the killings and the stunts, and here we have a tonne of old-school glorious violence, with beefcakes beating the crap out of each other and not a lot of overblown stuff. Much of the action is basic one-man army stuff, but the surrounding visuals, and the inventive arenas breath life into each scene. There’s plenty of strong support too with scenery chewing from Richard Dawson and Jessie Ventura. Again there’s a decent soundtrack and a bunch of immortal one-liners. And some guy’s head blows up.

5. Total Recall

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The thinking man’s Arnie film, Total Recall even upon multiple viewings still can catch you off guard and won’t make sense and can be interpreted any number of ways. Arnie plays a dual role, something he has done a few times in his career, and here you don’t know who is good, bad, who to trust, or what is real as Construction worker Quaid has recurring dreams about Mars. There’s a lot to absorb here, with dreams within dreams, planted memories, brain chips, and three-breasted women all creating a visually and mentally stimulating paradise. It’s difficult to separate the action and plot in this one, because the film is so plot heavy, but the violence (as you would expect from a Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger collaboration) is wildly, wonderfully excessive. Throw in the trio of Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside as one group you’d never want to stumble into down a dark alleyway, or on the surface of Mars, and we have a brilliant, unforgettable nightmare.

4. Commando

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Possibly the most perfect example of an 80s action movie – big star, one man versus thousands, dastardly villains, one-liner spewing goodie, guns, car chases, Hawaiian shirts, rocket launchers, synthesizers, muscles – it’s the most over-the-top, straight action movie on the list. Over the top for obvious reasons, but straight in that it doesn’t have any pretensions or a complicated plot, or anything that ever deviates from ‘you took something that belongs to me, and now I’m going to kill yo all’. It’s drenched in 80s, but it’s timeless, with a soundtrack so good they stole it for 48 Hours, with a template so flawless they borrowed it for Die Hard and with action so entertaining you could watch this every day and never tire of it. I should know – I’ve worn out several VHS of this, and I’m still waiting for a decent uncut BluRay or DVD version. You know the drill – one liners, Bill Duke, Sully Off a Cliff, let off some steam – Perfection.

3. Conan The Barbarian.

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Of the classic era of Arnie movies, this was the last I saw. I was maybe 10 or 11 when I saw it for the first time (by this time I was already obsessed with everything Arnie had done) and again I loved it. It was funny seeing Arnie with a sword instead of a gun, and he had never looked so gigantic. There was sorcery and witchcraft, camels being punched, robbery, giant snakes, more one-liners, and a host of cool characters. It wasn’t until later that I truly fell in love with the film. To the untrained eye, the acting is wooden and the plot is plain, but to the more observant viewer we have strong performances from Max Von Sydow, James Earl Jones, Mako, and an invigorating turn from Sandahl Bergman. The plot may be one of simple revenge, but the script is peppered with gold dust by Hollywood’s finest writer John Milius, who lends the film the same sort of violent kinetic energy as Howard’s original stories have. The film was low budget, but earned over $100 million in cinemas (with home sales it currently sits at over $300 million). There’s also the small matter of it having, unquestionably, the greatest soundtrack ever written – there can be no arguing this fact. Poledouris has crafted a score as epic as any single piece of music ever written, and every piece is spectacular – usually your favourite soundtrack contains at most three memorable themes, but Poledouris has created something monumental. Like many Arnie movies, this is macho male fantasy at its finest, with Conan striving and struggling through a harsh childhood to become the greatest warrior in the known world.

2. Predator

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Before making the seminal Die Hard, John McTiernan unleashed Predator upon unsuspecting audiences and proved to be another smash hit for Arnie. Probably the most macho movie ever made, it features the toughest group of marines ever seen on film thrown into a dense South American jungle and pitted against a fierce alien hunter. The action here is second to none, with some truly classic scenes and kills – the team completely mowing down acres of jungle with their weaponry is still breathtaking and hilarious. With wonderful make-up and effect from Stan Winston and co, another good soundtrack, and plenty of macho performances led by Arnie, Predator is another film that you have to watch if you accidentally stumble upon it while channel hopping in the wee hours. It’s also pretty clever too, with a winding plot about military men being expendable, and the fact that the Predator doesn’t show up until later in the movie, with the protagonists instead taking on local drug baddies adds to the paranoia and deception. Along with Aliens, this is the best man versus monster movie ever made.

1. The Terminator/T2

130970411477Remember when I told you I would only list ten movies? I LIED <Drops you off cliff>. The argument over which film is superior will rage on forever, and while both are wildly different in tone and budget, if not in execution, story, or style, I’m grouping this as one because it is clearly two parts of the same tale. There isn’t a lot I can say abouth both that haven’t been said already – flawless action, amazing performances, fantastic music, gripping story, emotion, comedy, horror, drama, the only real Terminator films are perfection. We all love Sarah; we all want to be John, we all cry over Reese, and we all want our very own Terminator. If Arnie had never made another film, I imagine that his performance in The Terminator would have been hailed by critics looking back at it. It is the greatest love story ever told. T2 still outshines every big budget bonanza that comes out today from a special effects and action perspective, and the main reason for its strength (outside of Cameron’s vice-grip direction) is that it is all about character. Take a hint blockbuster wannabees – there’s zero reason for me to watch or care about your films and all those millions spent on CG and explosions and crap if your characters are not fully fleshed. Not only are these two films my favourite Arnie movies, they are my favourite movies of all time. I only wish that deleted scene where Reece points a gun at Sarah had been included in the original cut. Hasta La Vista, baby. Hasta La Vista.

Sound off in the comments about your favourite Arnie movie, and let me know if I’ve missed any movie you hold dear!

Twins – DVD Review

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Arnie shows his range wonderfully in this light-hearted, but clever and ultimately touching comedy, using all the comic and action ability he has learned over the previous 10 years. Aiming for a younger, more widespread audience would ensure that more people would come to love Arnie, and ensuring he would become one of the greatest movie stars ever.

Arnie plays Julian, a twin separated at birth from his brother and mother in a dubious experiment. Once he reaches a certain age, he decides to go in search of his lost brother and mother; however, he is no ordinary 80s American male; he is a genius, a muscular giant with great fighting ability, naive and innocent when it comes to women, the outside world, and crime due to his upbringing in a tropical paradise. His search takes him to America, to LA, and into various humourous japes. Eventually he finds his brother Vincent, who was the ‘failed’ half of the experiment. Vincent is small, weak, and a small time crook and womanizer, but street-smart. We learn that Vincent is going to be killed by loan sharks unless he can come up with some money fast, but when Julian interrupts, beating up the bad guys, Vincent thinks he can exploit Julian as protection, even though he does not believe they are brothers. Julian is ecstatic to have found his other half and they begin searching for their mother as well as attempting to save Vincent. Over time they grow to like each other, and Arnie falls for Marnie, the sister of Vincent’s girl. The mob is on their backs, and Julian will not stop till he finds his mum.

The film works because the chemistry between DeVito and Arnie is perfect. The script is also very sharp, with plenty of jokes, room for action, and with a charming quality too while veering close to becoming a tad too sweet. The cast is good and all seem to have a great time making the film. Arnie’s one-liners are present-‘The pavement was your enemy’ and ‘You forgot the third rule in a crisis situation’, but the rest of the humour is good too especially sight gags with regards to the way the twins are so physically and culturally different, yet act the same, do the same things at the same time etc. Arnie’s singing on the plane is great too.

Overall, a good Arnie film, but one for the family to enjoy, rather than just the action fans. Arnie transitions well into a more lighthearted genre, and his unique star quality shines. DeVito is gold, Kelly Preston is gorgeous, and the baddies are a hoot. The DVD transfer is fine but there are no special features worthy of mentioning. Now that Arnie is making his way back into movies maybe he should return to some of these releases to record a commentary or documentary with the rest of the cast/crew. If anything it would entertain his fans and earn him an extra few bucks.

*Originally written in 2004

Last Action Hero

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This is quite an underrated movie, even amongst Arnie fans, and one which few people understand, or try to. Last Actio Hero is a spoof of action movies, primarily those starring Arnie and Stallone, ones which director McTiernen has made a living from: The films that have loose plots built around stunts, explosions, fights, and spectacular and over the top set pieces. That said, the action, stunts, and effects are good; the cast, especially Arnie, ham it up as much as possible, the cameo appearances are witty and accurate, and the plot is pretty clever.

Arnie plays Jack Slater, a ficticious cop/action hero who lives in movie land- a place where everything is super sized, and hyper real (a little punch in the gut of Hollywood). His daily routine, usually involving chasing bad guys, and wrecking huge portions of cities is disturbed- mid chase, by the mysterious appearance of a teenage boy called Danny. Danny is from the real world- our world, the world which gorges itself on the exploits of such larger than life characters as Jack Slater. Danny is just about Slater’s biggest fan, and no-one could be happier than he to be meeting his hero for real. Slater, naturally is less than pleased. Danny explained how he was given a magical golden ticket which opens a gateway been the real world, and the movie world, and tries to convince Slater that his life is a movie. This leads to some inspired jokes about the film industry, and Arnie’s own career- the ‘I’ll be back’ scene and the scene where Danny tries to make Slater swear. Meanwhile, Big Bad (English) guy Benedict hears about the golden ticket, and sees the potential for chaos, and the psychotic Ripper plots more carnage against Slater.

Tons of in-jokes make this an entertaining film, and I’ll admit that’s all it is. But that’s all it is trying to be. There is no need to criticize it for lacking artistic merit, character development, internal meditations on life etc. It’s an action movie, where the bad guys are supposed to die, cars are meant to explode when scratched, the good guy is untouchable, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The soundtrach, featuring AC DC adds to this thoroughly enjoyable throwback to 80’s action classics.

Extras unfortunately are light- a trailer, a music video, and a short featurette. The nineties was a revisionist time for movies, and this film was one of the best examples of the movement- self referential, self mocking, while pushing the boundaries of what was expected from the genre. A documentary discussing this and the making of, or a commentary or interview with cast would have been great.

As always, feel free to leave your comments on the movie- was this one of the better 90s Arnie efforts?