True Lies (1994)

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Shortly after the Columbine Massacre, Arnold Schwarzenegger decided that he was done with movies about guns. For a long period where his popularity was waning and he attempted to appeal to conservative audiences, Arnold placed a fatwa on guns in his movies. in at least three of his films, he completely avoids the use of firearms, and he’d made the decision to exclude the sight of firearms in promotional materials for his films. I mean for the love of god, in his horrible schlock fest “The 6th Day,” he keeps from killing a thug in front of his child, and walks off with the criminal lecturing him about gun violence before bringing him down off-screen!

T’was a dark, dark period in action films and film in general, my friends. If you want to see what Schwarzenegger was like before he became a gung ho gun control action hero, “True Lies” is the perfect amalgamation of action, comedy, and romance that you’ll see from the juggernaut from Austria before he became a parody of himself. It’s a film that’s so tongue in cheek and absurd most times, that it asks you to believe that Schwarzenegger, who is the size of a Monster Truck, can be a covert operative. Even more so, it asks you to believe Tom Arnold can be a covert operative, to boot! Tom Arnold!

Before trying to change the world of film with his abysmal gang bang of high concept films like “Titanic” and “Avatar,” James Cameron really didn’t do much except direct some damn fine and entertaining action films, and “True Lies” is really one of the last. Schwarzenegger is yet again clearly a man with a noticeably Austrian accent who lives the classic American life. He has a humdrum stay at home wife named Helen, as played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and a rebellious teen daughter, as played by Eliza Dushku, and has the most American name imaginable: Harry Trasker. Trasker lives the common suburban life, except for the fact that he is a secret agent for a top secret American organization named “The Omega Sector” and spends most of his free time going undercover and taking down mercenaries with his partner Albert.

Harry has discovered a potential terrorist cult that plans to detonate Nuclear bombs in American soil, but finds an even bigger challenge when he suspects his loving wife might be having an affair. With his personal life and work life damaging his focus on stopping the terrorists whom are smuggling the bombs in to the country, Harry masterfully interrupts Helen’s rendezvous and decides to integrate her in to a false mission to add spice to her life that she craved from Harry over the years. While the faux mission ensues–including a memorable erotic dance by Curtis–Harry and Helen are kidnapped by Harry’s actual enemies, and the two discover a lot about one another when they’re handed over to the evil Salim Abu Aziz and his associate Juno (Tia Carrere in her sexual prime).

Along the way there are some truly memorable moments of action and suspense paired with pure hilarity. Much of the action and gun fights are handled wonderfully by Schwarzenegger who seems to have a good time in this role, while director Cameron doles out the laughs and suspense with skill time and time again. “True Lies” unfolds a narrative that twists and turns in to various directions, but thankfully never feels clumsy or convoluted at any time. Harry’s personal life with his wife Helen is very tense, especially once Harry begins going nuts with jealousy over the prospect of her infidelity. And once he applies his covert skills to stomping on her potential affair it provides an awful lot of laughs, and eventually spells doom for Harry’s initial operation with the terrorist sector.

The climax is utterly absurd, as is the norm for a nineties action film, as Harry battles terrorists atop a military jet while trying to save his daughter from falling to her death. “True Lies” is the capsule of a simpler more entertaining time for the action genre when over the top was exciting and the genre was goofy without winking to the audience. It’s pure action comedy entertainment and always manages to entertain, even after almost twenty years.