True Lies

1994 dumb action movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Arnold Schwarzenegger's got a really big secret. He's a big-time secret agent who runs all over the world stopping terrorists. His wife and daughter, however, don't know that. She's about to find out when his suspicions of infidelity begin a chain of events that involves her in one of his missions. 

First, I want to point out that Schwarzenegger is totally ripping off this pose from another well-known actor on another poster: 

Give him a gun, which in this movie is very much a phallic symbol, and the poster is nearly identical. And really, Hanks doesn't need a penis on that poster anyway because Big had that subtext that was all about guns anyway. But I digress. This isn't about Big; it's about True Lies, a dumb action movie that Josh told me to watch. I really appreciate the recommendations, by the way. More of you should tell me what to watch. 

A lot of this is really entertaining, and I think the first half is actually a really good movie, especially for its genre. And that's surprising because it's got a few of my cinematic pet peeves--Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger attempting to act like an actual human being which almost never works because I don't think he really is one. Things are set up early with Arnold as Bond, and the action-packed opener is a lot of fun, a secret mission packed with exciting gun play and chases and some nice humor. Oh, and Schwarzenegger tangos and beats up a pair of dogs, though not at the same time. A question about that first scene though: If you're going to have all these guards with machines guns, snowmobiles, and skis, wouldn't you make sure they could shoot a little better than your average stormtrooper in A New Hope? They must have been so enamored by the snowmobiling skills during the job interviews that they didn't really check to see if the dudes could shoot the side of a barn with a machine gun. Arnold is, after all, about the size of a side of a barn. After this first scene, things slow down for a little bit, but you don't have to wait very long for more action sequences. And they're increasingly silly. There's a great bit of strobe-light fisticuffs in a mall restroom, the comedy provided by a poor guy dropping a deuce while it's all going on. It's a cool set piece. I like those scenes where a set is built--in this case, a restroom--and then completely demolished. That leads immediately to a scene where the characters steal a motorcycle and a horse and chase each other through a hotel, up different glass elevators, and onto the roof. Does that sound ridiculous? What about if I told you that it's actually a flying motorcycle? Yes? Ridiculous? It is, but I'm going to forgive that because it was something I hadn't seen before. I'm also the same guy who likes the notorious refrigerator scene in that last Indiana Jones movie, so what do I know? Maybe I just like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger being out-acted by a horse. By the end, the ridiculous action scenes either got way too ridiculous or I just lost my patience. All those explosions, jets, helicopters, machines guns. I'll take the brawl in the bathroom or the close-quartered cat fight a little later over all that special-effects-infused nonsense. The last 25 minutes of this movie, with Arnold flying a plane and his daughter somehow in Miami, just isn't believable at all. I'll give you horse in the elevator, True Lies, but enough was enough. The final scene is laughably implausible. By the end of this movie, I just wasn't having as much fun as I was having before the wife character found out the really big secret. How dumb is Jamie Lee Curtis's character, by the way? Maybe that's why the last half of this movie doesn't work as well as the first half. But man, she sure looks good in one key but completely unnecessary scene. That's what you'd have to call a killer bod. Even hotter is listening to her voice during a truth serum scene where everything kind of gets fuzzy and slow for Arnold. It's not much different than what I expect is always going through Schwarzenegger's mind actually. Arnold's just fine when he's playing big action hero, but when he's required to show emotions, things get a little embarrassing. "It's Helen. . .it's Helen. . .it's Helen." He also kind of acts poorly in a picture in a locket, and you just have to see what I'm going to refer to as his "thumb war face." Nobody--and I mean nobody--can make the face that Arnold does there. What about my other two cinematic pet peeves? Surprisingly, Tom Arnold isn't entirely useless. He's around for comic relief, but all of his one-liners sort of sound like things I've heard before. I also have to criticize the guy because his skeleton is chubby when the characters walk through an x-ray thing. And Paxton's not too bad either. Maybe it's the terrible hair and the stache, or maybe it's the way he says "pussy," "suck start a leaf blower," or "ass like a ten year old boy." Charlton Heston hams it up with an eye patch and gets the type of lines that only Heston can pull off--"This is not blowing my skirt up, gentlemen." I really liked the bad guys. The main baddie is played by Art Malik who has a couple great moments. One is is when he says "Yes!" and does this fist pump thing after shooting some kind of rocket launcher. Bad guys don't celebrate enough with fist pumps. Also, there's a scene where he's riding in a helicopter with a nuclear bomb strategically placed between his legs, yet another obvious phallic symbol. It was either a missile or the guy watched Jamie Lee Curtis taking off her clothes earlier. I also liked Charles Cragin who played a torturer named Samir and an actor named Armen Ksajikian who played a chauffeur and seemed completely out of place in every scene he's in. He's the type of character who really doesn't seem like he knows how he even got in the movie. 

This has an entertaining enough first half that makes it worth watching. I'd almost recommend that you stop watching after you've watched Curtis stripping to her underwear three or four times. Of course, you'll miss Armen Ksajikian, equally sexy, if you do that. And you won't know how the story ends. 


Josh said...

For an action movie, it's a pretty good comedy. I think it's the most like a human Arnold has ever behaved, and I thank the comedic lines for that.

This is really 3 movies in one: Arnold playing spy and lying to his wife, Arnold being a jealous husband and torturing his wife and her "other" with all the force of his spy agency, and Arnold as an awkward father chasing after his little bitch of a daughter.

You're right, the first part is a great movie. It's that third part that should have been cut.

I think Cameron and his writers hit a home run on this script. The direction is pretty tight, and most of the acting is what it is. I have few complaints and think it's a good time movie. 14/20

RD said...

This movie actually made a list I found of movies deserving of a sequel. I don't know about that...but you left out Tom Arnold's best line (when talking about his wife leaving him):

"Same thing happened to me with wife number two, 'member? I have no idea nothing's going on, right? I come home one day and the house is empty, and I mean completely empty. She even took the ice cube trays out of the freezer. What kind of a sick bitch takes the ICE CUBE trays out of the FREEZER?"