Last Action Hero (1993)


LLast Action Hero (1993)et me start by saying I wasn’t going to write about Last Action Hero (1993) however I just can’t shake loose some of the ideas that it explore, if only for entertainment value this is one of those films. A boy Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) whose whole life is the big screen and the escapism that it allows him to engage in on a nightly basis. His favourite is one of ours at the time Arnold Schwarzenegger in his take on the Dirty Harry part Jack Slater, as we see from the beginning the third instalment of the series. The invincible rebel cop who is armed with guns in too many places. Causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. Sound familiar, spoofing the action cop genre, with Arnie in the titular role.

The lone viewer Danny adores the character, knowing the films back to front, he knows the conventions of Hollywood cinema too which come in handy later on. When his projectionist friend Frank (Art Carney) invites him to an exclusive preview showing of the new Jack Slater film he is given a golden ticket that was originally a gift from Harry Houdini. Its power is not yet known or even tested. in the hands of excited Danny its full potential is unlocked. A gateway into the film, the fourth wall is now open to him, and closed behind him.

Becoming a part of the fabric of the film. The characters unaware of the automatically reloaded guns, the gorgeous women who occupy Hollywood’s view of Los Angeles. This world is a complete film with its own reality and laws that govern it, the actors who portray them are unaware they are simply a performance, the now expands to the new element in the film, Danny who throws the completed film into chaos  From here on-in Danny teams up with Jack to solve the drug ring that is the plot of the scripted film. The villain of the film and deadly assassin Benedict (Charles Dance) is curious to know who this new element in the film is, how he knows so much. The voyeur becomes the watched that takes his experience to inform and direct the films progress.

Leading the deadly stereotypical British villain to unlock the power that the boy has, the potential of the ticket to survive in the real world. Having secured the ticket as the action progresses he understand how to use the ticket to unlock “baddies” from other film, to have the power of their on-screen character in the real world. Moving from the projected world which projected into audiences, our desires, dreams of the characters who come alive every time we watch them on the big screen. They have a life on in our own consciousness, empowered further with Houndini’s ticket become a reality.

This is a fascinating idea that holds up more than the film, even when Arnie’s character comes into contact with the man himself at the premiere of his own film, the cage he otherwise trapped in. His new lease of life is a culture shock to him, learning his limitations of as fictional character. It’s both fascinating and complex to see character confined to film come alive outside of their own framework. To imagine our favourite characters from over a century of film come off the screen, having a life beyond the film set, the special effects and the script, etc that brought them to life step out having another one. The actor may be long dead or still alive, there’s a clash when the two meet, and ultimately the new person is only as rounded as the on-screen performance given by the actor, which determine their life-span.

The film it self for me is particularly throw-away, a typical nineties action comedy that plays on the conventions of film. You could easily remake this film with another set of actors, even moving the action from a film projection to digital, allowing a film character to leak into the internet, the travel around Youtube, finding other clips of films. The possibilities are endless.

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2 responses

  1. U know what? Never seen this movie. Nor is it shown on TV .. ever!
    Is this a breach in my education?

    November 11, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    • It is old to be honest so I’ll let you off.

      November 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm

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