|Last Action Hero|
|Directed by||John McTiernan|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$137.3 million|
Last Action Hero is a 1993 American fantasy action comedy film directed and produced by John McTiernan and co-written by Shane Black and David Arnott. It is a satire of the action genre and associated clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a Los Angeles police detective within the Jack Slater action film franchise, while Austin O'Brien co-stars as Danny Madigan, a boy magically transported into the Slater universe, and Charles Dance as Mr. Benedict, a ruthless assassin from the Slater universe who escapes to the real world. Schwarzenegger also served as the film's executive producer and plays himself as the actor portraying Jack Slater.
Last Action Hero failed to meet the studio's expectations at the box office, and was both a critical and commercial disappointment. The film later found commercial success with its VHS release, establishing itself as a cult classic. The film was also Art Carney's last appearance in a motion picture before his death in 2003.
Danny Madigan is a ten-year-old boy living in a crime-ridden area of New York City with his widowed mother, Irene. Following his father's death, Danny takes comfort in watching action movies, especially a series featuring the indestructible Los Angeles cop, Jack Slater, at his local movie theater owned by Nick, who also acts as the projectionist. Nick gives Danny a golden ticket once owned by Harry Houdini, to see an early screening of Jack Slater IV before its official release.
During the film, the ticket stub (counterfoil) magically transports Danny into the fictional world, interrupting Slater in the middle of a car chase. After escaping from their pursuers, Slater takes Danny to the LAPD headquarters, where Danny points out evidence of the fictional nature of Slater's world, such as the presence of numerous women and a cartoon cat detective named Whiskers, and says that Slater's friend John Practice should not be trusted as he "killed Mozart" (since he is played by the same actor as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus). Though Slater dismisses all of this as part of Danny's wild imagination, Slater's supervisor, Lieutenant Dekker, assigns Danny as his new partner, and instructs them to investigate criminal activities related to mafia boss Tony Vivaldi.
Danny guides Slater to Vivaldi's mansion, recognizing its location from the start of the movie. There, they meet Vivaldi's henchman, Mr. Benedict. Danny later claims that Vivaldi and Benedict were the ones who killed Slater's second cousin, but Slater has no evidence, and they are forced to leave; however, Benedict is curious as to how Danny knew, and he and several hired guns follow Slater and Danny back to Slater's home. There, Slater, his daughter Whitney, and Danny thwart the attack, though Benedict ends up getting the ticket stub. He discovers its ability to transport him out of the film and into the real world.
Slater deduces Vivaldi's plan to murder the rival mob by releasing a lethal gas during a funeral atop a skyscraper. He and Danny go to stop it, but are waylaid by Practice, who reveals that Danny was right: he is working for Vivaldi. Whiskers kills Practice, saving Slater and Danny, and the two manage to prevent any deaths from the gas release. Learning that Vivaldi's plan has failed, Benedict kills him, and he uses the stub to escape into the real world, pursued by Slater and Danny.
Slater becomes despondent upon learning the truth, as well as his mortality in the real world, but cheers up after spending some time with Irene. Meanwhile, Benedict devises a plan to kill the actor portraying Slater in the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after which he can bring other villains from other movies into the real world and take over. To help, Benedict brings the Ripper, the villain of Jack Slater III, to the premiere of Jack Slater IV to assassinate Schwarzenegger. Danny and Slater learn of this and race there. Slater saves Schwarzenegger and kills the Ripper. Benedict appears and shoots Slater, critically injuring him. Danny subdues and disarms Benedict, allowing Slater to grab his revolver and shoot Benedict in his explosive glass eye, killing him; however, the blast causes the stub to be lost. With Slater losing blood, Danny knows that the only way to save him is to return him to the fictional world, where he is indestructible.
The ticket stub falls in front of a theater playing the film The Seventh Seal, where The Figure of Death emerges from the screen. Death appears before Danny and Slater after they arrive at the theater in a hurry. Danny holds Death at gunpoint, but Death clarifies he was simply curious: Jack Slater is missing from his lists of when people will die, and Danny is slated to die as a grandfather. Death then suggests searching for the other half of the ticket. Danny finds it and is able to take Slater back into his movie, where his wounds instantly heal. Danny returns to the real world before the portal closes. A recovered Slater then enthusiastically embraces the true nature of his reality when he talks to Dekker about his new plan, appreciating the differences between the two worlds. Danny and Nick share a heartfelt moment reminiscing their past, while Slater drives away on the screen, waving goodbye.
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 himself noted that the studio ironically 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, Penn and Leff were eventually credited with the story of the film, but not the screenplay.
Several script doctors did uncredited work on the script, including Carrie Fisher, Larry Ferguson, and William Goldman. Penn and Leff disliked various parts of the final film, including the idea of a magic golden ticket. In their draft, the story would not explain how Danny got transported into the film world.
Schwarzenegger received a salary of $15 million for his role in the film.
Some scenes were filmed in a dome adjacent to the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. The exterior of the film's Pandora Theater was the Empire Theater on 42nd Street in New York. The interiors were filmed at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.
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:
|Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||June 8, 1993|
|Singles from Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture|
The film was scored by composer Michael Kamen and peaked at No. 7 on The Billboard 200 chart. The album, which was positively received by active rock radio outlets, was certified platinum on August 24, 1993.
|2.||"What the Hell Have I"||Alice in Chains||3:58|
|5.||"Two Steps Behind"||Def Leppard||4:19|
|6.||"Poison My Eyes"||Anthrax||7:04|
|7.||"Dream On (Live)"||Aerosmith||5:42|
|8.||"A Little Bitter"||Alice in Chains||3:53|
|9.||"Cock the Hammer"||Cypress Hill||4:11|
|11.||"Last Action Hero"||Tesla||5:44|
|12.||"Jack and the Ripper"||Michael Kamen and the Los Angeles Rock And Roll Ensemble featuring Buckethead||3:43|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
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 premiered in Westwood, Los Angeles on June 13, 1993, and entered general release in the United States five days later.
Last Action Hero was released on VHS and LaserDisc by Columbia TriStar Home Video on August 29, 1994, and on DVD on October 7, 1997. On February 3, 2009, Last Action Hero was reissued on DVD by Sony Pictures Home 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 film double-featured with Hudson Hawk on Blu-ray and released by Umbrella Entertainment on September 4, 2019, in Australia only. An Ultra HD Blu-ray restored version was released on May 18, 2021, and featured a director's commentary track, deleted scenes, an alternative ending, and the original theatrical trailer, all in 4K. The film was re-released with Cliffhanger in a 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray pack on November 2, 2021.
The film grossed approximately $1.1 million in previews on the evening of Thursday, June 17, 1993, and opened at number two at the US box office, behind Jurassic Park's second weekend, grossing $14.2 million on its opening weekend from 2,306 theaters. It ended its run with $50,016,394 in the United States and Canada. The film was released in the United Kingdom on July 30, 1993, on 266 screens and again opened at number two behind Jurassic Park (on 435 screens) with a gross of $1.34 million for the weekend. In France it opened at number one with a gross of 21 million French franc ($3.6 million) in its opening week. It grossed $87,202,095 overseas, for a worldwide total of $137,298,489. 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 one of the top-grossing films of all time.
Schwarzenegger states that he tried to persuade his coproducers to postpone the film's June 18 release in the United States by four weeks, but they turned a deaf ear on the grounds that the film 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.
Last Action Hero received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 39% based on 51 reviews and an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Last Action Hero has most of the right ingredients for a big-budget action spoof, but its scattershot tone and uneven structure only add up to a confused, chaotic mess." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 44 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing that despite some entertaining moments, Last Action Hero "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." 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". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Last Action Hero makes such a strenuous show of winking at the audience (and itself) that it seems to be celebrating nothing so much as its own awfulness. In a sense, the movie's incipient commercial failure completes it aesthetically." Variety called it "a joyless, soulless machine of a movie, an $80 million-plus mishmash of fantasy, industry in-jokes, self-referential parody, film-buff gags and too-big action set-pieces." Halliwell's Film Guide described it as "a film that tries to have it both ways, simultaneously mocking and celebrating the conventions of action movies, which leaves audiences, as well as the actors and director, in a state of bewildered confusion". John Ferguson of Radio Times was more positive, awarding it four stars out of five and stating, "An Arnold Schwarzenegger backlash had been on the cards for some time and when this extravaganza was released the knives were well and truly out. It was actually all a little unfair, because this is a smart, funny blockbuster [...] Schwarzenegger has rarely been better and he is backed up by a never-ending stream of star names in cameo roles [...] And, although McTiernan has fun spoofing the conventions of the action genre, he still manages to slip in some spectacular set pieces."
About the film's failure and critical response, John McTiernan said:
Initially, it was a wonderful Cinderella story with a nine-year-old boy. We had a pretty good script by Bill Goldman, charming. And this ludicrous hype machine got hold of it, and it got buried under bullshit. It was so overwhelmed with baggage. And then it was whipped out unedited, practically assembled right out of the camera. It was in the theater five or six weeks after I finished shooting. It was kamikaze, stupid, no good reason for it. And then to open the week after Jurassic Park--God! To get to the depth of bad judgment involved in that you'd need a snorkel.
Schwarzenegger blamed the film's poor performance on bad press and the election of Democratic president Bill Clinton, which he said influenced audiences to see 1980s action film stars as lowbrow. In 2017, he said streaming services gave the film its chance to reach new audiences unencumbered by the bad press.
Shane Black was very critical of the movie: "It was a mess. There was a movie in there, struggling to emerge, which would have pleased me. But what they’d made was a jarring, random collection of scenes."
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. At the 1993 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film received two nominations without wins: Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Schwarzenegger). The film was also nominated for six Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Performance by a Young Actor, Best Costume, and Best Special Effects.
A video game based on the film of the same name was released in 1994 on video game consoles, and the themed-pinball machine was released in 1993 by Data East and digitally re-released on The Pinball Arcade and its spin-off Stern Pinball Arcade in 2016.
In October 2019, Schwarzenegger revealed that he was willing to star in True Lies 2 and Last Action Hero 2, possible legacy sequels to the two films of his 90s action roles.