Monday, March 19, 2007

Schwarzenegger Sunday: True Lies

For more about Schwarzenegger Sunday, see Marching Orders above. There will always be spoilers.

Arnold was coming off of 1993’s poorly attended, tongue-in-cheek action-comedy, Last Action Hero. One could argue that spoofing his entire career would be a regrettable decision leading to a decline in popularity. In True Lies, Arnold plays Harry Tasker, some sort of government anti-terrorism spy. The movie begins with him infiltrating a high-falutin’ party in Switzerland in order to steal some files from a computer. When his cover is blown, he blows up a tool shed and makes a run for it. His partner, Albert Gibson who is played by Tom Arnold, helps him escape and they head back to DC where Arnold greets his mousy wife, Helen (played by Jamie Lee Curtis). Helen has no idea what Harry does for a living, assuming that he is the computer salesman he has always claimed to be. Helen nearly has a romantic encounter with Bill Paxton, but Harry discovers what is going on and uses U.S. government surveillance resources to not only spy on his wife, but to scare the living daylights out of her and Paxton. Just as he is about to reveal all to Helen, they are kidnapped by the same terrorists he is trying to stop. They are taken to an island in the Florida Keys where a terrorist group named Crimson Jihad has several nuclear bombs and plans to persuade the United States to stop bombing Arab nations by threatening to blow up US Cities. The government stops most of the terrorists from reaching mainland Florida, and Harry is able to pull Helen out of a moving limousine via helicopter, just before the car crashes into the sea. However, the terrorists have set up shop in a Miami building and are threatening to detonate a nuclear bomb. They have also managed to kidnap Harry and Helen’s daughter and bring her from DC to Miami. Harry flies in on a Marine Harrier, saves his daughter, and blows up every last terrorist. One year later, Harry and Helen are both government spies, going to parties to dance the tango together.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: Harry is more of a subdued secret agent in this one. Most of the film’s best lines go to Albert Gibson, but here are a few of the Harr's top ones:
After bashing two Doberman’s heads together: “Stay!”
“You see, that’s the problem with terrorists. They’re really inconsiderate when it comes to people’s schedules.”
Helen asks, “Have you ever killed anyone?” Harry responds, “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
As he shoots the main terrorist into a helicopter via a missile: “You’re fired!”

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Again, Harry is really not that style of character, but here are a few more:
“Just trying to get a closer look at Beavis and Butthead.”
“There is no us – you psychopathic bitch.”
Helen asks, “Are we gonna die?” Harry says, “Yup. They’re gonna shoot us in the head or torture us to death or leave us here when the bomb goes off…” Helen interrupts, “Harry!”
“Put me through to the White House!”
“OK, Marines. It’s time to kick ass.”

“I’ll be back.”: I think due to fear of the Last Action Hero hangover, this was wisely avoided. n/a

Smarmy Villain: Art Malik plays Salim Abu Aziz. I can’t really figure this guy out. He’s certainly evil, but he’s no evil genius. His plans seem wholly inconsistent. If you’re a terrorist and your goal is to get some nukes, why on earth would you try to hunt down a sole government agent yourself? And how do you expect to get the US to change their tactics while you’re sitting on a rooftop in Miami? It almost seems like the Crimson Jihad made things up as they went along. But he does go around slapping women, riding motorcycles into hotels and jumping them into swanky pool parties on other rooftops. So I suppose he’s smarmy enough. He’s just kind of an angry loser. 6

Rough and Tumble Henchman: When the movie was released, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee was irate, staging protests and boycotts. I can certainly see why. These terrorists are idiots. We don’t have any kind of henchman as Aziz is clearly the man in charge. However, there are probably about sixty random guys who all look like they badly need a shower and have shaved exactly six and a half days ago. And they’re all incredibly incompetent terrorists. Since there isn’t one single guy, this has to be n/a, but if anyone of these guys had a few lines, they might have made it in there.

Diminutive Sidekick: Tom Arnold is listed on the IMDB at 6’1”. Who knew? He is actually superb in this movie, somehow playing a convincing government agent, and throwing a lot of quality lines. He sets the tone early when he sees Harry’s daughter wearing a motorcycle helmet in the morning and says, “Yeah, I remember the first time I was shot out of a cannon.” Who could say that line better than Tom Arnold? 5

Rejected hot love interest: Juno Skinner is an art dealer involved with the terrorists and is played by Tia Carrere about eight hours after she left her peak. I’ve always found her to be extremely attractive. She’s not looking particularly fit in this movie, but still a gorgeous woman. I believe we’re supposed to assume that she’s attracted to Harry, but there is nothing in the way of onscreen chemistry. Furthermore, her character is puzzling because she’s already a wealthy art dealer, but continually claims that she has hooked up with the terrorists solely because they are giving her a lot of money. That still doesn’t make it clear why she’s going on excursions with them. 7

Not nearly hot enough love interest: On the other hand, Jamie Lee Curtis got herself in phenomenal shape for this movie. She pulls off the mousy housewife role perfectly, but when she is forced to do a striptease for Harry (without realizing it is him), she’s quite put together. However, every time I see her, I can’t help but be reminded of that picture she did in her grandma underwear with no makeup which was wholly disgusting. Because of that, we’ll knock her down an extra peg or three, giving us an 8.

Arnold yelling: Nothing really stood out here. He’s much more subdued as a spy than as a Kindergarten Cop. n/a

Arnold cursing: Harry throws a few curses out there, but it’s Helen who has the powerful, poignant curse word: “I was reckless and I was wild. And I fucking did it! Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether you understand it.” 5

Arnold crazyface: First of all, it is immediately clear that Schwarzenegger had a facelift sometime before this movie. I was concerned that we wouldn’t get much expression from him because of that issue. However, there’s a lot to choose from here, people. I’ll give you a handful: But here’s my winner 7
Superfluous Explosions: Oooh boy. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves 10
Director: We’ve heard form James Cameron in this space before. By the time True Lies came around, he already had the reputation for making the most expensive movies in Hollywood, yet those movies always made a ton of dough, anyway. This is his final collaboration with Arnold. His next movie after this one was Titanic.

Franco Columbu/Sven Ole-Thorsen: This is the first Schwarzenegger Sunday without a sighting of either gentleman, so they’re both n/a. But we do get a look a this guy! Look at ‘im!
Shirtless Arnold: Near the end of the film, his shirt is ripped a bit, but at this point in his career, I think Arnold was finally starting to display a little modesty. n/a

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: Terrorists are dispatched quickly and efficiently throughout the film. There’s an extended fight scene in the bathroom, but Harry isn’t even the one who ends up killing the guy. Very little severe brutality. n/a

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: First Aziz is embarrassed by having landing on the plane’s tail for what we can only imagine is a brutal crotch shot. But then he is sent zooming to his death while attached to a missile. It’s somewhat brutal, but nothing compared to what we’ve seen in some other recent outings. 5
Plausibly implausible plot: We’ve already gone over how the terrorists’ plans make no goddamn sense whatsoever. Are we to believe that Tom Arnold is some sort of professional, let alone a government spy? Are we to believe that Helen never had a clue that her husband worked for the government? And why couldn’t he just tell her the truth? That issue is never really discussed, and we take it at face value for a while, but eventually, there just seems to be no point in the secrecy. And how the hell did they get the daughter down to Miami based solely on seeing a photo in Helen’s purse? The stuntwork is fantastic, and I suppose that adds credibility to the action scenes, but at its core, this movie doesn’t make much sense - to the point where it’s hard to get over it, making the plot merely implausible. 3

Ambiguous ending: Things are pretty buttoned up. We even get a Bill Paxton sighting and discover that he has not learned his lesson. But we don’t really know what the Taskers are doing at the fancy party or if Helen is really a full spy after one year of training. But I suppose we don’t really care, either. 2

Much of this movie is horribly dated, even though it only came out thirteen years ago. Gibson says, “Kids these days are raised by Madonna and Axl Rose.” He talks about watching Sally Jesse Raphael, and there’s the aforementioned Beavis and Butthead comment. The music also sounds like it’s from Raw Deal or something. The movie should probably have been about a half-hour shorter, as the plot was extremely convoluted and didn’t tie back to a sensible patter, anyway. They were supposedly working on a sequel for a while, but at some point it was scrapped. That was probably a sage choice. This was the start of Arnold playing more “mature” characters (Junior notwithstanding), and I think we’ll find that it doesn’t lead to better movies.

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