Last Action Hero

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Last Action Hero is one of the few movies whose genre is accurately described as "Other". A 1993-era Genre Savvy young action movie fan is sucked into the latest film of his favourite hero and proceeds to Lampshade Hanging all manner of tropes. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an action movie hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (who gets to enter the real world and meet Arnold Schwarzenegger himself!).

It was directed by John McTiernan, previously known for such films as Die Hard (1988), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and Medicine Man (1992). This was Schwarzenegger's first film after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Made to appeal to a bigger family audience (it was PG-13) than most of his films, the wave of hype promised that it would be, as the trailers put it, "The big ticket for '93!". It was released in very close proximity to Jurassic Park, which was a bigger hit than Columbia Pictures expected. Last Action Hero failed to live up to the hype at the box office, and while it was eventually profitable, the film was widely regarded as a bomb.

Still, the movie is regarded as a cult classic and is often praised for poking fun at the action movie tropes.


Tropes used in Last Action Hero include:
  • 555: Lampshaded: "That's why we have area codes!"
  • Accidental Kiss: Whitney kisses Danny when she believes he's the freshman she's been assigned to kiss when he comes to her door.
  • Acme Products: The guys in the red pick-up truck have a crate of Acme Dynamite.
  • Action Duo
  • Action Girl: Deconstructed. Slater tells Danny that he wishes his daughter Whitney was more normal. He later tells Danny that she has no friends or social life, and spends all her spare time with her guns. Also a possible subversion, given that Whitney hardly does anything despite her actress receiving top billing alongside Schwarzenegger (in Jack Slater IV, that is). It's possible that Danny stepping in meant he took over her role as Slater's sidekick.
  • Adam Westing: Taken to meta-levels. Arnold plays himself in the real world as a flighty celebrity led around by his wife.
  • All Part of the Show:
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Jack Slater IV premier assumes this is the case with the Slater/Ripper fight in the balcony. When Slater runs out of the theater afterward, the throng of paparazzi assumes he is Schwarzenegger.
    • Tom Noonan's agent thinks The Ripper is Tom. It gets him killed.
    • Averted later in the film, when a whole theater of frightened people runs away from the Grim Reaper. The fact that they actually saw him walk him out of the movie and into the theatre probably helped a good deal.
  • Angrish: Slater's sergeant.
  • Anti-Hero: Parodied.
  • Apathetic Citizens: In the film's real world New York, Benedict conducts an experiment:

Benedict (shouting in the street): Hello! I have just shot a man and I did it on purpose! (silence) I said, I have just murdered a man, and I wish to confess!
Citizen: Hey, shut up down there!

Benedict: I snap my fingers again and tomorrow you emerge from several canine recta. Or you and Toto can go back to Oz. Questions?
Jack: Yes. Two of them. Why am I wasting time on a putz like you when I could be doing something dangerous like rearranging my socks? (smokes cigar) And how will you snap your fingers after I rip off both your thumbs?

  • Beard of Evil: Benedict.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Lampshaded. Daniel tries convincing Slater they're in a movie by pointing out that all the female passersby are insanely hot, and that there are no unattractive women in existence.

Danny: (indicating the video clerk) She is too attractive to work here.
Jack: I agree. I think she should work with us. Undercover of course.
Danny: The point is there are no unattractive women here. Where are the ordinary women? Nowhere, because this is a movie.
Jack: No, this is Kuh-lee-FOO-nee-yuh.

Jack: Did you make another movie mistake? You forgot to reload the damn gun!
Benedict: No, I just left one chamber empty. (And he shoots.)

Jack: Hah! You didn't know I was going to say that, did you?
Daniel: That's what you always say.
Jack: I do?

    • Parodied:

Jack: "Rubber baby buggy bumpers!" Didn't know I would say that, did you?

    • Jack also has his own: "Big mistake." His daughter seems to have inherited it.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Played straight at first with Danny discovering Stallone was the star of the Terminator films in the land of Jack Slater. Later averted when Jack Slater runs into Arnold Schwarzenegger after Reality Ensues.
  • Chandler's Law: Averted. Once Big Bad Benedict ditches Slater in the real world, he decides against giving him a new lead in the form of a hitman who'll almost definitely fail. He just executes his plan while Slater lampshades this, waiting for said killer to show up.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The key thrown to Danny by the burglar to free himself from the handcuffs during the robbery attempt. He keeps it and, after Practice handcuffs him in the film-within-a-film, uses it again... perhaps because this is a movie, it automatically works.
    • Truth in Television: Most handcuff keys are interchangeable. It's very rare that your arresting officer will be with you from the time he yanks you off the street 'til you're finally placed in lock-up, so having interchangeable cuff keys is practical.
    • When Nick tears the magic movie ticket in half while admitting Danny in to see the new Slater film. During the ending, the Grim Reaper tells Danny to find "the other half of that ticket."
    • In-universe, a wad of counterfeit bills that Jack keeps in his house, notable for burning an odd color. When Danny tries to convince Benedict to take the money and leave, he calls his bluff and orders the money burned... which serves as a signal to warn Jack that something's wrong.
  • Cosmic Plaything: When Slater finally has a chance to confront Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Real World, he gives the actor an angry rant about turning him (Slater) into one of these for the amusement of others without giving any consideration to how Slater might feel about having to go through so many ridiculous (and sometimes tragic) Action Movie situations.

Slater: (to Schwarzenegger) "You ruined my life!"

  • Could Have Been Messy: Lampshaded.
  • Da Chief
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Benedict is Genre Savvy already, but becomes more so after his escape from the Jack Slater film.
  • Deconstruction: A fascinating form of it: while most action tropes are simply lampshaded to the point of lunacy when Daniel is dropped into Jack Slater IV, when the characters are turned loose into the Real World, Reality Ensues. In one moving scene, Jack Slater reveals that under his Deadpan Snarker typecasting he's mostly just tired after repeatedly surviving implausible, stressful scenarios while everyone around him died, he's faking the calls from his ex-wife which supposedly prove she still cares (but she's remarried and moved on), and he's deeply depressed that his Action Girl daughter skipped her prom to field-strip an AK-47 (he fears she'll grow up alone). This is a side of Slater that Daniel was shocked to see, but nevertheless, he was able to get him out of this funk to continue the action of the movie.

Jack: I just want to be a good cop! Instead I keep getting caught up in these crazy adventures!

    • Likewise, the Magnificent Bastard Benedict quickly notices that the Real World is rather short on card-carrying action movie villains such as himself... and forces to properly oppose him. In his own Reality Ensues scene, he kills a man at night in the middle of a run-down neighborhood and is surprised that neither Slater nor police show up to prevent it, nor do bystanders even care... thus proving to him that he can do a lot more damage and gather a lot more wealth and power than he did in the movies.

Benedict: If God were a villain - he'd be me!

Jack: Let us push his son off the building. You will have eternal nightmares, but you are fictional, so who cares?

Slater: He's supposed to be back! He was only suspended for a month! So what's your point?

  • Fourth Wall Observer: When Jack finally gets home, he still remembers that he's a film character. He deliberately lampshades the nearest comedy trope character (his boss), then winks at the audience.
  • Funny Background Event: After Slater has momentarily escaped the villains by ramping his convertible through the air and landing safely, while he and Danny have a leisurely chat about the fruits of life, we watch the black van that was chasing them attempt to replicate Slater's stunt, fail and crash spectacularly behind them. Neither notices.
  • Gatling Good: The black van with the sawed-off minigun in the door. And two of these are mounted on the helicopter at the funeral. And none of them sounds like it's shooting at a realistic firing rate.
  • Genre Savvy: First Daniel, then Benedict and later Jack Slater.
  • Goodnight, Sweet Prince: Parodied.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: Lampshaded, of course. Jack refuses to say any serious swear words; Danny points out that he can't because "this movie's only PG-13".
  • The Grim Reaper: Plucked by the magic ticket from The Seventh Seal. And played by Sir Ian McKellen, no less!
  • Groin Attack: "You want to be a farmer? Here's a couple of achers!"
  • Guns Akimbo: Jack does the Matrix version with dual SMGs.
  • Hand Cannon: Jack Slater's Desert Eagle and Benedict's Dan Wesson revolver.
  • "Hell Yes!" Moment: Danny has one of these when Whitney escapes her captors and pulls a gun on the guys holding him. Everyone notices.
  • Hero Insurance: Lampshaded, of course.

Danny: "He's only mad because you destroyed more of the city than usual..."

  • Hidden Depths: Jack Slater. He's leading a pitiful life that even his screenwriters didn't expect.

Danny: Look on the good side. You have a great daughter. And your ex-wife wouldn't call if she didn't want you back.
Jack: You think she can't tell the real voice from a taped one? I pay a cashier to call me at work, so the guys think I have a life. My ex-wife is happily remarried. She never calls. And Whitney... why can't she be a normal teenager? On prom night she stays home to field strip an AK-47! She's going to die a young maid, I know it. I'm going to buy it soon, too.
Danny: No way. You can't die until the grosses go down.

  • Hollywood Homely: In-universe. Danny explicitly points out how there are no "unattractive people" in Jack's world. Jack sees nothing unusual about it.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Lt. Dekker has dozens of them for his anus.
  • Idiot Ball: "I might be looking for the other half of the ticket." To be fair, by that time it was just as much a Brick Joke.
  • IKEA Weaponry: The Ripper's axe.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The thugs in the beginning. Again, Lampshaded as usual.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: Every explosion features a far-larger-than-life fireball as if the exploding object was filled with gasoline.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Lampshaded. The movie delivers them by the truckload.
  • Indecisive Parody: While obviously a parody, it can't seem to decide what kind. The movie tends to bounce between Affectionate Parody and outright mockery, a trait most of its detractors point to. The movie bounces between the two approaches and suffers for it, a flaw most of its detractors point out, if they're even aware that it's a parody at all.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Benedict's test kill is this. One of the few tropes in this movie played straight in the real world section (we don't see where he shoots the guy, but he was using a match-grade revolver at close range and might have aimed for the head).
  • Instant Emergency Response: Lampshaded. When Benedict first enters the Real World, he's shocked to discover that you can steal a car without sirens instantly sounding. To test this new situation, he walks up to a man and shoots him repeatedly, then waits for the sirens. When that doesn't work, he yells that he's just shot and killed a man, to which the only response is someone off-screen to telling to quit making a racket.
  • Ironic Echo: Danny tries to make one out of John Practice's Catch Phrase ("How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"), with little success.
  • It Is Not Your Time: Danny's encounter with the Grim Reaper.
  • Just Between You and Me: "Since you're about to die anyway, I may as well tell you the entire plot."
  • Karma Houdini: The burglar since this is real life and not a movie.
  • Lampshade Hanging: More lampshades than a Shriner Convention.
  • Large Ham: The chief of police.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Played straight naturally in the Movie world. In the real world, Jack fires his Desert Eagle pointed up and is knocked down.
    • On the other hand, Benedict can shoot his giant revolver one-handed in the real world.
      • A .357 that size and weight (and compensated as it is)wouldn't actually have that much recoil.
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to most of Schwarzenegger's other movies.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While not pointed out, the brief look in Slater's closet has a line of identical outfits.
  • Made of Iron: Slater, at least in the movies. When he arrives in the real world, he's genuinely shocked that punching out a car window with his bare hand hurts.
  • The Mafia: The Big Bad of Jack Slater IV.
  • Malaproper. Vivaldi, who keeps mixing metaphors and getting idioms wrong, which finally gets him killed by an exasperated Benedict.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • If you're going to employ a Dragon, don't pick a guy named Benedict! There's also the Pandora Theater. And stay away from gangsters named "LeFart".
    • Oddly, while the Pandora is a real theater in Los Angeles (and the film was shot in it), there is no Pandora Theater in New York.
  • Medium Awareness: Danny, justified as he is literally trapped in a movie.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Danny's encounter with the burglar, which leaves a Chekhov's Gun (the key to the handcuffs) and gives Danny and Jack a explanation for the latter's presence to his mom.
    • Also when Danny and Slater enter the real world, Slater's acts of Genre Blindness are initially played off for laughs. The duo chase Benedict through New York in stolen cars, ending up in a back-alley where they are challenged to a game of chicken. The scene is tense, Danny warns Slater he could die, but Slater drops off Danny and speeds off. However, neither vehicle manages to build much speed (unlike in the movie world). Compared to all the things Slater has survived up to this point, as well as what most action heroes survive, most viewers wont be expecting much of a crash, even if it is the real world. Cue the actual crash at around 40 k/Ph which causes the cars rears to lift off the ground. It does not help that Slater's taillights go out and one of the car horns goes off.
  • More Dakka:
    • At Leo Le Fart's funeral, when Jack steals the corpse, every single guest, even the priest, the nuns and several little old ladies pull out military grade automatic weapons. Then again, it was a mafia funeral.
    • The goons in the black van shoot at Slater with a Gatling gun.
    • How about the helicopter that shoots through an entire building?
  • Mr. Exposition: Jack's favorite second cousin Frank who conveniently expires after delivering a Red Herring.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize: In-universe: Daniel pegs a character as The Mole based solely on the fact that his actor (F. Murray Abraham) played Salieri in Amadeus. To be fair, he's right.

Jack:: Danny said not to trust you. He said you killed Moe Zart.
Practice: Moe who?
Jack: Zart.
Practice: (shrugs) Ah, you know, I've killed a lot of people, I can't remember half of 'em.

  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Up to Eleven with Benedict's explosive eyeball, that wipes out Jack's ex-wife's home in a gigantic fireball. Cut to next scene, and Jack and Danny have a lot of soot on them, but they are otherwise perfectly okay.
  • Oh Crap: Danny does this a lot.
  • Once an Episode: Jack appears to randomly shoot into his closet when he comes home, but then a dead assassin falls out. Apparently there's always one in there.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Played with and lampshaded: Slater suffers a gunshot wound from Benedict in the real world, causing a race against time to get him back into the movie world, where the doctor "wouldn't even call it a flesh wound."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Lampshaded: since the screenwriter for Jack Slater IV never bothered to give the nerdy freshman "Skeezie" an actual name, he doesn't have one. "Skeezie" is the full name he gives on a police report.

Skeezie: (to policeman) Skeezie. S-K-E...

    • He doesn't even know how to finish spelling it. "I-E... no, 'Y'".
  • Plot Armor: Lampshaded.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The kid realizes he is this during a game of "Chicken" with a car, while riding a bike.

Daniel: I'm the comedy sidekick... Oh, shit, I'm the comedy sidekick! This isn't going to work!

  • Poirot Speak: Vivaldi has a thick Italian accent and frequently butchers idioms.
  • Pop Star Composer: Buckethead teamed up with Michael Kamen to score the film (Buckethead did the guitar solos while Kamen composed everything else).
  • Power Perversion Potential: In-universe: upon learning that the ticket actually works, Nick considers the possibility of visiting Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow.
  • Rage Against the Author: Slater's understandable rage about the writers killing off his son in the third movie. He also rips into Schwartzenegger when he finally meets him.
  • Recursive Reality: There are movies in Jack Slater's universe, making them movies within a movie... within a movie.
  • Red Shirt/Retirony: Lampshaded.
  • Remember the New Guy?: At the end of Jack Slater III, Jack's son Andrew is killed. Jack Slater IV introduces Whitney, Jack's daughter who has been living with his ex-wife. Oddly, this is never lampshaded, aside from her And Introducing credit. Since we don't see too much of the prior Jack Slater films, we don't actually know if Whitney was in them and possibly just played by a different (likely younger) actress.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Used to maximum effect by Benedict.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Three of them: two Hostage Situation moments that bookend the film and a rooftop "running away from trigger-happy Mob shooters" moment in the middle.
  • Self-Deprecation: Aside from the self-parody of his films, Arnold shows up at the film premiere, answering questions and hamfistedly promoting his Planet Hollywood chain of restaurants, to the embarrassment of his real-life wife Maria Shriver.
  • Sequel Escalation: Jack moans that his adventures seem to get more and more difficult to deal with. Danny tells him that the sequels have to get harder and more exciting. Jack's not amused.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A visual gag referencing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when Danny figures out that his attempt at playing chicken with Benedict won't work (there's your evidence that you're the comedy sidekick, kid).
    • The two beat cops at the beginning are very reminiscent of Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, complete with saxophone riff and "three days 'till retirement".
    • Jack's slow motion fall from a building is a direct visual reference to Hans Gruber's plummet in Die Hard.
    • When entering the LA Police Station in Jack Slater IV, Danny is astonished to see both the T-1000 and Catherine Tramell walking by.
  • Soft Glass: Lampshaded. While in the real world, Jack notes that his hand really hurts after punching through a car window.
  • Stripperiffic: Parodied with the female police officers' Custom Uniforms.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: With several Lampshade Hangings, such as when Danny insists that the trouble at Leo Le Fart's funeral can't possibly be "just" another explosion because the Slater film has had several explosions already.
  • Take That:
    • Part of the playful feud Arnold has with Sylvester Stallone is played out here: when Danny goes to the video store to show Jack the guy who played him in another movie, he finds an advertisement for Terminator 2: Judgment Day starring Stallone.

Jack: The man is an artist. It's his best performance ever!

      • He's either saying he'd have played it better, or that it was his best performance because it didn't happen.
      • You could infer he's praising himself, since in the real world, Arnold played the Terminator, and it was his inmediatly preceding picture, so up to that point, for Arnold, it was HIS best performance.
    • The La Brea Tar Pits was a Take That to another 1993 film, Jurassic Park. The Take That was made during production of both films: Last Action Hero was assuming it would be a blockbuster hit as well, so it ended up as being the equivalent of the Star Wars "billboard" being blasted by Billy in Laserblast. The Hamlet parody was also a Take That to Mel Gibson's Hamlet (1990), directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
  • This Is Reality: And Benedict, being Dangerously Genre Savvy, likes it. His Just Between You and Me speech is Nightmare Fuel:

Benedict: Gentlemen. Since you are about to die anyway, I may as well tell you the entire plot! Think of villains, Jack. You want Dracula? Dra-cool-la? Hang on, (takes out the ticket) I'll fetch him. Dracula? Huh. I can get King Kong! We'll have a nightmare with Freddy Krueger, have a surprise party for Adolf Hitler; Hannibal Lecter can do the catering, and then we'll have a christening for Rosemary's Baby! All I have to do is snap my fingers and they'll be here. They're lining up to get here, and do you know why, Jack? Should I tell you why? Hmm? Because here, in this world, the bad guys can win!

Danny: He only took your badge because you destroyed more of the city than usual.

  • The Unpronounceable: Believe it or not, Arnold Schwarzenegger: Jack can't even pronounce the name of the actor who plays him, and ends up calling him "Arnold Braunschweiger" most of the time.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Even in a loopy action film, it's bizarre to see 1) a talking animated cat, 2) Catherine Trammell and the T-1000 strolling around, 3) a black-and-white Humphrey Bogart, 4) steam literally coming out of a man's head when angry and 5) every woman with model looks. But being a live-action cartoon world, no one (but Danny) seems to even think it's slightly out of place.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Grim Reaper advises Daniel to use the other half of the ticket to bring Jack Slater back to his movie, and then walks out. Does the Reaper keep the first half of the ticket and use it to return to The Seventh Seal from which he was accidentally taken from? The movie doesn't tell us.
    • The ticket fell on the ground outside the arthouse theatre shortly before a stampede and was presumably lost. Death never had it, it just affected his theatre long enough to get him out.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded and inverted when John Practice turns against Jack: Daniel's explanation of this trope is long enough for the bad guys to get the drop on him as well ("You ain't so smart yourself, kid.").

Danny: (to Jack) I don't see you coming up with ideas.

Jack: Whiskers! What kept you?

  • Wicked Cultured: Benedict, who is way more worldly than any other character, especially Vivaldi.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Danny realizes almost too late that he's just Plucky Comic Relief to Jack, so the bad guy car won't swerve out of the way of the kid playing chicken with it on a bicycle.
  • You Bastard: Slater doesn't particularly like being sucked into a new highly dangerous adventure each time the audience in the real world demands it. When he meets Schwarzenegger at the movie premiere, the character accuses his actor of being responsible for his suffering.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Benedict to Vivaldi after he learns of the magic ticket's power.