Starring: Austin O’Brien, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Dance, Anthony Quinn
Director: John McTiernan
I remember getting this film out on VHS when I was a kid from Video Ezy, and then watching it a bunch of times because I loved it. I didn’t realise at the time that it had been pitched against Jurassic Park, and had been much maligned as a film and even considered a flop.
It’s the story of a young boy (O’Brien) in New York who loves to skip school to watch movies. His friend is an old projectionist who gives him a magic golden ticket as a gift when they find out that the cinema is being closed down. Neither one thinks that the ticket is really magic, until the boy uses it and enters a classic action film starring his favourite star Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). He soon finds himself embroiled in Jack’s latest case, in a race against time to stop the bad guys.
But that plot line is really just the bones of the film. It’s not The Purple Rose Of Cairo or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It’s an exploration and parody of films and cinema, a love letter to the action films and genre tropes that by the 90’s had become iconic.
There are so many tiny little things in this film that I missed as a child. All the cliches are explored. There are the cops three days from retirement. The police chief who constantly shouts. The bad guy has a glass eyes that can be used as explosives. Sam Spade (Bogart himself!) makes a brief appearance in the police station. It’s a walk through cinema by someone who clearly loves movies, and takes the piss out of everything along the way.
In the final act, it shifts gears, as the bad guy heads into the real world via the stolen golden ticket, and the good guys have to chase him, and stop the evil. But the rules of the real world are so different, and in a lot of ways, it’s a darker place.
This film is really fun, and Schwarzenegger has a wonderful time sending himself up. It’s full of colour and life, and laughs, as well as a good buddy journey at its’ heart. It’s odd to think that it was ever set up at a straight action movie in it’s marketing, and that it was hoped to compete with Jurassic Park in the Box Office stakes. Although it’s quite lush and lavish, it feels like a small, personal film really. It’s not something that I think everyone will get, but at the same time, it was so fun to watch this one again.
See It If: you’ve ever wanted to enter the world of your favourite movie or if you love old action movies, it’s a really fun film.