Last Action Hero is a 1993 American action-comedy-fantasy film directed and produced by John McTiernan. It is a satire of the action genre and its clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a fictional Los Angeles police detective. Slater is a fictional character even within the film, the hero of the Jack Slater series of action films. Austin O'Brien co-stars as a boy who is magically transported into a parallel universe by a magical movie ticket, one inhabited by Slater and the other characters in the Slater film series. Schwarzenegger also served as the film's executive producer and plays himself as the actor portraying Jack Slater, and Charles Dance plays an assassin who escapes from the Slater world into the real world. Last Action Hero was a box office disappointment during its initial theatrical release. The film also features Art Carney's last appearance in a motion picture.
The story is an adventure that begins when young Danny Madigan is magically transported into the surreal world of an action film featuring his fictional hero, Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). Jack is the hero of the Jack Slater film series, a fearless LAPD detective whose commanding officer Lieutenant Dekker (Frank McRae) frequently shouts at him in incoherent gibberish for breaking the rules.
Since his father died, Danny has been skipping school (much to his mother Irene's dismay) to watch movies with his friend Nick (Robert Prosky), an old man who operates the run-down Pandora movie theater in New York City. Nick invites Danny to a private screening of Jack Slater IV and gives him a magic ticket originally given to Nick by Harry Houdini. Before the show, Nick tears the ticket in half, gives one half to Danny, and puts the other in the ticket box. A few minutes into Slater IV, while Jack in his 1969 Pontiac Bonneville convertible is being chased by a group of submachine gun-toting men in a pickup truck, a gleeful Danny's ticket stub begins to glow, and some dynamite from within the film flies out of the screen, lands near Danny, and explodes. Danny wakes up in the back seat of Jack's car, being chased through Los Angeles in the world of Slater IV. After losing the bad guys, Danny tries to convince Slater that they are in a film, but Jack sees nothing unusual about his world, which includes a cartoon cat detective named Whiskers (voice of Danny DeVito), a black-and-white image of Humphrey Bogart, female officers dressed in outlandish battle armor, even various characters from other films (at one point, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick from his role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct) are seen outside the police station).
As Jack and Danny drive along the coast looking for the "bad guys", Danny recognizes, from the opening sequence, the mansion belonging to crime boss Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn). Despite Jack's skepticism, they go in and meet Vivaldi's British henchman Mr. Benedict (Charles Dance), known for his ever-changing glass eyes. After overhearing Danny discussing his role in the Slater film, Benedict follows Jack and Danny as they visit Slater's daughter, Whitney (Bridgette Wilson; though the Slater movie credits her as "Meredith Caprice"), raids the house with some thugs, takes the magic ticket from Danny, and escapes after a gun battle with Jack and Whitney. While inspecting the ticket at the mansion, he discovers a portal to the real world.
Eventually, Jack and Danny figure out that Vivaldi plans to kill his rivals at a rooftop funeral by planting nerve gas in the body. After a brief scene in which Whiskers saves the two from betrayal by Slater's friend John Practice (F. Murray Abraham), Jack tells Danny to commandeer a construction crane, takes the body and escapes from the funeral, and disposes of the body into a tar pit with Danny's help at the crane. Whitney arrives in her truck immediately afterward, and Jack and Danny use the truck to crash into the villains' mansion shortly after Benedict irritably betrays and shoots the inept Vivaldi. In the ensuing struggle, Benedict and his butler fall through a portal into the real world, and Jack and Danny follow them. In the real New York City, Jack is disappointed to learn that he is a fictional character and resentful at having been given such a hard life by his films' creators, particularly Schwarzenegger himself. While talking with Irene, he learns to be sensitive and loses interest in violent action.
Meanwhile, Benedict learns that in this world he can get away with murder and hatches a plan to wipe out Jack by killing Schwarzenegger. Jack correctly guesses Benedict's plan after Benedict uses the ticket to escape a car chase, leaving behind a newspaper with hand-drawn marks on some film advertisements.
At the premiere of Jack Slater IV, after a brief encounter with Schwarzenegger (himself), Slater confronts the Ripper (Noonan), the ax-wielding villain who killed Jack's young son in the climax of Jack Slater III and whom Benedict has brought to the real world. In a rooftop scene similar to the finale of Slater III, the Ripper throws Danny from the roof before being electrocuted by Jack. Slater finds Danny clinging to the side of the building and pulls him to safety, but Benedict confronts Jack and shoots him in the chest while ranting about his plans to form an army of film villains (such as Dracula, Freddy Krueger, Adolf Hitler, Hannibal Lecter and King Kong) and take over the world. Danny knocks Benedict to the floor, enabling Jack to get Benedict's gun and shoot Benedict directly in his explosive glass eye, blowing his head to smithereens; but the ticket flutters off the roof and lands in front of a movie theater showing The Seventh Seal. Death (Ian McKellen) emerges from the resulting portal and follows Jack and Danny to the Pandora, where Danny hopes to save Slater by transporting him back into the film. Death notices that Slater is not on his list (but Danny is due decades later) and advises Danny to find the other half of the magic ticket, which he does. Jack and Danny are transported into Slater IV, where the wounds are minor. On Jack's insistence, Danny returns to the real world. The film ends as Jack explains his new insights to Dekker, then drives into the sunset.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater / himself
- Austin O'Brien as Danny Madigan
- Charles Dance as Benedict, Vivaldi's right-hand man. He is a supporting antagonist of Jack Slater IV, but becomes the true antagonist of the main film.
- Robert Prosky as Nick
- Tom Noonan as The Ripper / himself
- Frank McRae as Lieutenant Dekker
- Anthony Quinn as Tony Vivaldi, the main antagonist of Jack Slater IV until Danny's interference changes events
- Bridgette Wilson as Whitney Slater and Meredith Caprice. Whitney is Jack's daughter, and Meredith is the actress who plays her in the Slater films.
- F. Murray Abraham as John Practice, Jack's friend, revealed as a traitor. Danny says not to trust him saying he killed Mozart, referring to Abraham's Oscar-winning role in Amadeus.
- Mercedes Ruehl as Irene Madigan
- Art Carney, in his last film role, as Frank Slater
- Professor Toru Tanaka as Tough Asian Man
- Ryan Todd as Andrew Slater
- Cameo appearances
- Franco Columbu appears during the opening credits as director of Jack Slater IV.
- Tina Turner appears at the climax of Jack Slater III as the mayor of Los Angeles.
- When Danny and Jack arrive at LAPD headquarters, Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick appear outside the front door as Catherine Tramell (from Basic Instinct) and the T-1000 (from Terminator 2: Judgment Day), respectively. Stone had earlier played Schwarzenegger's wife in Total Recall.
- Inside the LAPD Headquarters, an officer shouts "Hey Slater! It's your ex-wife on two!". This is actor Mike Muscat, who also played Moshier in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the Cyberdyne Security officers on the phone who calls the police to say "I think it's that guy from the mall. Him and the woman". Coincidentally Muscat was also Edward Furlong's acting coach.
- Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator on a poster promoting Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This appears to be a playful jab at Schwarzenegger's close rivalry with Stallone.
- Model/actress Angie Everhart as a video store clerk
- During the premiere of Jack Slater IV in the real world, a number of celebrities appear as themselves. These include Schwarzenegger's then-wife Maria Shriver, Little Richard, Entertainment Tonight host Leeza Gibbons, James Belushi (who starred with Schwarzenegger in Red Heat), Damon Wayans, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton (James Bond at that time) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who worked with John McTiernan on the film Predator as the original Predator before dropping out)
- As Jack and Danny enter the movie theater to find Arnold Schwarzenegger, MC Hammer asks Slater about a deal to do the Jack Slater V soundtrack.
- Wilson Phillips appears singing during the funeral scene.
- Ian McKellen as Death, who emerges from Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal
- Danny DeVito (uncredited) as the voice of Whiskers
Background and productionEdit
Last Action Hero was an original screenplay by Zak Penn and Adam Leff, meant to parody typical action film screenplays of writers such as Shane Black. Penn noted himself that it was ironic that the studio then had Black rewrite the script. The original screenplay differs heavily from the finished film and is widely available to read online. Although it was still a parody of Hollywood action films it was set almost entirely in the film world and focused largely on the futile cycle of violence displayed by the hero and the effect it had on people around him. Due to the radical changes Zak Penn and Adam Leff were eventually credited with the story of the film but not the screenplay, which is unusual for a film based on an original screenplay.
Schwarzenegger received a salary of $15 million for his role in the film.
Years after its release, the film was the subject of a scathing chapter called "How They Built The Bomb", in the Nancy Griffin book Hit and Run which detailed misadventures at Sony Pictures in the early to mid-1990s. Among the details presented in this chapter were:
- Universal moved Jurassic Park to June 11, 1993 well after Sony had decided on a June 18 release date for Last Action Hero.
- The movie was rumored to be the first advertisement placed on a space-going rocket.
- The film was capsized by a wave of negative publicity after a rough cut of it was shown to a preview audience on May Day. Sony then destroyed the test cards and the word-of-mouth proved to be catastrophic for the film.
- The shooting and editing schedule were so demanding and so close to the June 18 release date that after the movie's disaster, a source close to the film said that they "shouldn't have had Siskel and Ebert telling us the movie is 10 minutes too long".
- Sony was even more humiliated the weekend after the film opened, when the movie lost 47% of its opening-weekend audience and saw TriStar's Sleepless In Seattle open as the #2 movie at the box office.
- The final declared financial loss for the film was $26 million.
- Last Action Hero was the first film to be released using SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), but only a few theaters were set up for the new format, and many of those experienced technical problems with the new system. Insiders at Paramount reportedly referred to SDDS as "Still Doesn't Do Shit".
The magic ticketEdit
Three prop tickets were made for the film. The first version of the Magic Ticket, created by the film’s special effects unit, had “The All Seeing Eye” on the front and theater seating on the back. This version can clearly be seen on screen when it’s ripped in half by Nick and presented to Danny upon entering the theater to see the fictional film “Jack Slater IV”. This version of the ticket also appears on the top of the “Last Action Hero” pinball machine.
The second version of the Magic Ticket, created by Michael Marcus, had “Raj Palace” prominently displayed on the front and miscellaneous advertising on the back (never seen on film). The production staff (not knowing that another version of the ticket had already been shot) began using this second version of the ticket for filming. You can clearly see the right half of the front of this second version of the ticket when Danny brandishes it in the car with Jack Slater.
After the production staff realized that two obviously different tickets had already been filmed, Michael Marcus was commissioned to create a third version of the ticket essentially merging the first two tickets that had already been filmed into one definitive version (the back of the “All Seeing Eye” of version #1 and the front of the “Raj Palace” of version #2). This third and final version of the ticket was never ripped and all other versions of the ticket were disposed of to prevent any further chance of continuity errors – but inevitably it was too late in the production cycle to go back and reshoot those sections of the film.
To camouflage the difference between the Magic Tickets, the special effects department added a gold glow and blue lightning over it in post-production.
The third, definitive, and final version of the Magic Ticket (and only unripped version remaining) was sold on August 20, 2008 by The Prop Store of London to a private collector in Dallas, Texas (known only as "Mr. X") for US$1,650.
The film was scored by composer Michael Kamen.
- "Big Gun" by AC/DC – 4:24
- "What the Hell Have I" by Alice in Chains – 3:58
- "Angry Again" by Megadeth – 3:47
- "Real World" by Michael Kamen and Queensrÿche – 4:21
- "Two Steps Behind" by Def Leppard – 4:19
- "Poison My Eyes" by Anthrax – 7:04
- "Dream On" (live) by Aerosmith – 5:42
- "A Little Bitter" by Alice in Chains – 3:53
- "Cock the Hammer" by Cypress Hill – 4:11
- "Swim" by Fishbone – 4:13
- "Last Action Hero" by Tesla – 5:44
- "Jack and the Ripper" by Michael Kamen and Buckethead – 3:43
At the time of its release, the film was billed as "the next great summer action movie" and many movie insiders predicted it would be a huge blockbuster, especially following the success of Schwarzenegger's previous film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
The film grossed $USD15,338,241 on its opening weekend, for an average of $6,651 from 2,306 theaters, and ended its run with $50,016,394 in the United States, and an additional $87,202,095 overseas, for a total of $137,298,489 worldwide. In an A&E biography of Schwarzenegger, the actor (who was also the film's executive producer) says that the film could have done better if not for bad timing, since it came out a week after Jurassic Park which went on to break box office records as the top grossing film of all time. Schwarzenegger states that he tried to persuade his co-producers to postpone the film's June 18 release in the US by four weeks, but they turned a deaf ear on the grounds that the movie would have lost millions of dollars in revenue for every weekend of the summer it ended up missing, also fearing that delaying the release would create negative publicity; he told the authors of Hit And Run that, while everyone involved with the production had given their best effort, their attempt to appeal to both action and comedy fans resulted in a film that appealed to neither audience and ultimately succumbed to heavy competition.
Critical reception and awardsEdit
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. It currently holds a 37% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Vincent Canby likened the film to "a two-hour 'Saturday Night Live' sketch" and called it "something of a mess, but a frequently enjoyable one". Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing that despite some entertaining moments Last Action Hero more often "plays more like a bright idea than like a movie that was thought through. It doesn't evoke the mystery of the barrier between audience and screen the way Woody Allen did [in The Purple Rose of Cairo], and a lot of the time it simply seems to be standing around commenting on itself."
The film was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Star (Austin O'Brien) and Worst Original Song ("Big Gun"), but it did not 'win' any.
On February 3, 2009, Last Action Hero was reissued on DVD by Sony Pictures Entertainment in a double-feature set with the 1986 film Iron Eagle. It was released on the high-definition Blu-ray Disc format on January 12, 2010. The Blu-ray release presented the film original widescreen presentation, a first since the laserdisc release.
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