I know a lot of people argue that “Last Action Hero” was ahead of its time, but I’d wager a bet we’ll likely never see a time where it’d be considered genius. Director John McTiernan matched with Arnold Schwarzenneger bring movie fans an action movie that never knows what it wants to be. It’s too straight faced to be considered satire, too silly to be taken as an action movie, too menacing to be a kids film, and too juvenile for hardcore Schwarzenneger fans. Yes, even more juvenile than “Kindergarten Cop.”Most of “Last Action Hero” can never decide on putting Schwarzenneger’s character in to the background. Considering he’s mostly just a fictional character that young Danny Madigan worships whenever he visits the theaters, it’s jarring the film basically begins on Jack Slater and his adventures.
Director John McTiernan stages a lot of action scenes with over the top violence and puns, and it tends to be confusing. It’s satire for the action genre, but you have to really concentrate on what’s meant to be silly, and what isn’t. “Commando” was immensely over the top and was supposed to be a straight faced action film, while character Slater spends the first moments of the film kicking someone in the jewels and spouting a goofy one-liner. Danny is a latch key kid who spends most of his time at the local movie theater watching his favorite movies, including the Jack Slater action series.Friends with the projectionist Nick, he offers Danny a golden ticket that somehow becomes his own transportation in to Jack Slater’s world, where he’s not only a part of the action, but a witness to the over the top world Slater belongs to.
Once again the writers are immensely out of focus here, as “Last Action Hero” puts Danny in to Slater’s world, and then Slater becomes a part of Danny’s world. Danny learns how to fight pure evil through Slater’s world, and Slater figures out that he’s just fictitious and very angry that his life has been nothing but shoot outs and explosions. And of course there are scene where he attempts to adjust to reality and its limitations, including the odd idea that if the star of the Jack Slater films dies, so does the character. Film baddie Vivaldi uses the ticket to transport himself and sets out to assassinate the actor Schwarzenneger.Thus Slater snaps in to action and inevitably begins living out the very action film he’s been entrenched in.
“The Last Action Hero” takes odd turns in the narrative such as breaking the fourth wall, and acknowledging that Schwarzenneger exists in this universe. “The Last Action Hero” really would work if it ever really let audiences in what it was trying to accomplish. Director McTiernan’s film is much too convoluted and listless to involve the audience. Even the inclusion of the film’s star, and the star of the film’s film (?) doesn’t quite add to the attempts at meta storytelling, it only hinders them and feel self-indulgent. Granted the great Tom Noonan is creepy as the film’s secondary villain “The Ripper,” and it’s interesting McTiernan uses Ingmar Bergman’s manifestation of Death as the ultimate villain and plot device, but they’re very slight highlights in a film that’s still a massive misfire.