LAST ACTION HERO [1993/2010] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] Schwarzenegger, Can Be Your Last Action Hero!
Action-adventure superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger bursts through the screen as a larger-than-life movie hero in this nonstop adventure from acclaimed director John McTiernan 'Predator' and 'Die Hard.' Jack Slater is an action-film hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. An old projectionist Nick [Robert Prosky] who hands a magic movie ticket to Jack's biggest preteen fan Danny Madigan [Austin O'Brien], and the kid steps right inside the latest Jack Slater film, becoming the actor star's sidekick in gunfights and car chases.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Art Carney, Charles Dance, Frank McRae, Tom Noonan, Robert Prosky, Anthony Quinn, Mercedes Ruehl, Austin O'Brien, Professor Toru Tanaka, Joan Plowright, Keith Barish, Karen Duffy, Larry Ferguson, Melvin Van Peebles, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Noah Emmerich, Michael Chieffo, John Finnegan, Frank McRae, Ryan Todd, Bobbie Brown (cameo), Angie Everhart (cameo), John McTiernan Sr. (cameo), Franco Columbu (cameo), Tina Turner (cameo), Sharon Stone (cameo), Robert Patrick (cameo), Catherine Tramell (cameo), Mike Muscat (cameo), Sylvester Stallone (cameo), Angie Everhart (cameo), Maria Shriver (cameo), Little Richard (cameo), Leeza Gibbons (cameo), James Belushi (cameo), Damon Wayans (cameo), Chevy Chase (cameo), Timothy Dalton (cameo), Jean-Claude Van Damme (cameo), MC Hammer (cameo), Wilson Phillips (cameo), Sir Ian McKellen (cameo) Symba (uncredited) and Danny DeVito (uncredited)
Director: John McTiernan
Producers: John McTiernan and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Screenplay: David Arnott, Shane Black and William Goldman (uncredited)
Composer: Michael Kamen
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: 5. 1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Portuguese: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Running Time: 131 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Fun fact: In the summer of 1993, 'Last Action Hero' opened one week after 'Jurassic Park.' Studio bosses at Columbia Pictures were convinced that Arnold Schwarzenegger would clobber the dinosaurs, and played up this battle of the box office behemoths in their promotion for the film. They were gravely mistaken. Arnold Schwarzenegger got stomped like Bambi under Godzilla's foot. I can recall going to a big multiplex with Steven Spielberg's film on five screens. Even in its second week, lines to see it went through the theatre lobby and out the door. In comparison, 'Last Action Hero' opened there on just a single screen with a half-empty auditorium. After a string of mega-hits including 'Total Recall' and 'Terminator 2,' the actor had his first outright flop. As a potential contender for the big summer blockbuster of the year, 'Last Action Hero' was simply not to be.
In hindsight, there was simply no way that any picture in its position could have ever succeeded. Not even the biggest film star in the world, which Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the time, could face off against the defining cultural moment for a generation of moviegoers and survive unscathed. However, bad timing was certainly not the film's only problem. Even if not for its box office competition, the movie's poor screenplay, inconsistent tone, and the irritating performance from one of its lead stars would have likely done it in anyway.
Somewhere during its development, 'Last Action Hero' started off as a [supposedly] clever idea, even metaphysical, high-concept pitch. The story works as a sort of reverse spin on Woody Allen's 'The Purple Rose of Cairo.' Life in the big city slums of New York hasn't been easy for young Danny Madigan [Austin O'Brien]. In between home invasions and muggings, the boy's only form of entertainment is to watch films at the run-down old theatre where he's befriended the doddering projectionist Nick [Robert Prosky] who owns his personal Cinema. Like most 12 year-olds, he has an enthusiasm for films but hasn't yet developed taste in them. His favourites are the mindless shoot-'em-ups starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, yes, the actor name-checks himself, as loose cannon cop Jack Slater. After one particularly bad day, his projectionist friend offers Danny Madigan a special advance screening of 'Jack Slater IV', all by himself at midnight. The boy jumps at the chance. When he arrives, he's also given a magic ticket said to be passed down from Harry Houdini. Danny Madigan is in hog heaven as he settles down to watch Jack Slater take revenge on the Mafioso, who killed his second-cousin.
Well, it turns out that the magic ticket really is magical. At a key moment, Danny Madigan is sucked into the theatre screen and passes right through into the world of the film itself. Against his disbelief, he's living in his favourite film, paired up as Jack Slater's newest partner. His attempts to explain the predicament to anyone and everyone in earshot are met with indifference. Now, Danny Madigan must find a way to get back to the real world. In the process, he'll have to help Jack Slater foil the Mob's latest scheme to take over Los Angeles.
It's [supposedly] a neat idea, and 'Last Action Hero' has a handful of funny scenes to support it. Early on, bored at school, Danny Madigan fantasises about Arnold Schwarzenegger taking over for Laurence Olivier in 'Hamlet' and blowing the hell out of Denmark. In Jack Slater's crazy celluloid universe, the L.A.P.D. is populated by all sorts of wacko cops in outlandish uniforms. Blink-and-you'll-miss-'em celebrity cameos pop up all over, like Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel, Robert Patrick as the T-1000, and Danny DeVito as the voice of an animated cat detective, to name but a few. The film takes pot-shots at action film clichés like the crusty police captain, the hero's bad puns, the overly-talky killer, the cop killed with only two days to retirement, a chase through the oft-used L.A. River, and many ridiculous stunts and explosions. Arnold Schwarzenegger is plenty game to send-up his own persona and career. And the meta-filmic twists go into overdrive when the main villain Benedict [Charles Dance] who is delightfully creepy, escapes into the real world with a plot to disrupt the 'Jack Slater IV' premiere and kill the true Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Towards the end of the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger appears as himself, attending the New York opening of his latest Jack Slater film, accompanied by his wife, Maria Shriver, and blithely unaware that Jack Slater is fighting for his life in another part of the theatre. Instead, Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen hustling the Jack Slater merchandise that, like the "Last Action Hero" T-shirts, caps and poster are being sold to promote the film.
Unfortunately, these things take up maybe 15 to 20 minutes of screen time in a 131-minute film. Whatever good ideas the original script may have held were eventually watered down through countless rewrites, studio interference, test screening feedback, and last-minute reshoots. Danny Madigan is an incredibly whiny and annoying lead character that engenders no audience sympathy at all. I can't blame poor Austin O'Brien too much; I'm sure the kid did exactly what everyone asked of him. The hiring of John McTiernan as the director, especially where he made his mark with 'Predator' and 'Die Hard,' also turned out to be a much bigger mistake than anyone realised. The director may be deft with the action stuff, but has no sense of comedy whatsoever. Far too many of the gags in the film are thudding unfunny. For long stretches of the film, everyone seems to forget that they're making a spoof of dumb action films, and instead just proceeds to make a dumb action film.
'Last Action Hero' is slightly overlong, and not nearly as funny, smart, or entertaining as it thinks it is. Sadly, everyone realised it. At $85 million, the film was quite expensive for its day and it cost more than 'Jurassic Park' did, and yet grossed a paltry $50 million domestically. It did better overseas, and I'm sure turned a profit eventually. But the vanity project is still remembered as a black mark in its star's career. On the other hand, 'Last Action Hero' is not quite the worthless disaster that it was made out to be at the time either. If you can go into it with low expectations, the picture is just moderately clever enough to be watchable. Just barely, though and set those expectations really low.
With his lantern jaw and square-cut, comic-book looks, Arnold Schwarzenegger handles his various roles with good humour: it is fun being the boss. Young Austin O'Brien is also a very slick performer. Note should be made of the contributions of Dean Semler, the director of photography; Eugenio Zanetti, the production designer, and Richard Greenberg, the visual effects consultant.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' Considering its history on the very inferior DVD, 'Last Action Hero' looks surprisingly respectable on Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer is presented in the films correct 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image is at least reasonably sharp enough that the small engraving on Arnold's belt buckle is legible. Black levels are solid and the contrast range appears to be properly rendered without artificial boosting. Colours are well saturated and sometimes striking. In another pleasant surprise, I didn't spot any edge enhancement artefacts. My initial expectation was that Sony would merely recycle their DVD master from 2001, and the studio's DVDs of the era were almost all plagued with edge ringing problems. Countering that, however, is some moderate but noticeable Digital Noise Reduction filtering that does give the transfer a dated appearance. This causes occasional smearing during motion, and frozen grain patterns. Grain representation in general is a problem with the disc. The movie's photography is fairly grainy in spots, especially during special effects shots. The high-definition transfer doesn't handle the grain very well. It looks very noisy and even blocky at times, which suggests either poor digitalisation during the telecine transfer or poor compression during the disc encoding.
Blu-ray Audio Quality ' In similar respects, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is decent all around, but not quite exceptional. 'Last Action Hero' had the distinction of being the first movie released theatrically in the SDDS 7.1 audio format, Sony's competition for Dolby Digital and DTS. The latter debuted a week earlier with 'Jurassic Park' and stole most of Sony's thunder. Many of the theatres equipped with SDDS experienced technical problems; for several years, and the format was referred to as a complete failure. In order to show off their 7.1 channels, the film's mixers loaded up the soundtrack with lots of zinging directional and surround activity. Bullets whiz all through the soundstage repeatedly. Even as mixed down to 5.1 channels here, the track is still very aggressive. It also matrixes well into 7.1 configuration with Dolby ProLogic IIx processing. Overall fidelity is pretty good. The rockin' score and songs on the soundtrack are satisfyingly broad across the front channels. Sound effects such as knives are quite sharp and piercing. Gun fire has a nice kick. Dynamic range is a little on the shallow side. The movie has plenty of explosions, but few of them dig particularly deep. In baseball terms, this would be a solid double.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: Just like earlier DVD editions of this film, the Blu-ray has no bonus features. Unless you count a bunch of trailers that are not very relevant, which is to my mind, a complete waste of a Blu-ray disc.
Finally, film for film and despite a couple of misfires in an otherwise exemplary résumé, there was at one point nobody better in the Action movie business than John McTiernan, and after a string of cranking out three of the most successful Action films of all time, the Director proved himself abundantly capable of delivering what was and still arguably is the quintessential Action spoof film in 'Last Action Hero.' Starring history's biggest Action hero and delivering a fun and magical plot that perfectly intermixes general parody of the Action movie business, 'Last Action Hero' makes for an infinitely re-watchable picture for Action and Arnold Schwarzenegger fans alike. Sony's Blu-ray release, however, is rather tepid, featuring a fairly decent 1080p picture quality, a booming lossless soundtrack, and next to no extras. Recommended for diehard fans of the film, but for more casual viewers should wait for, hopefully a special edition at some point in the future will be released, I hope so. Despite it being slightly a disappointing film, that should have been better, I am still glad I have got this in my Blu-ray Collection, as I am really keen to build up an extensive Arnold Schwarzenegger Blu-ray Collection.
Andrew C. Miller ' Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan.
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom