If there’s one thing Hollywood loves it’s a movie about itself. If there’s one thing the movie-going public hate it’s movies about Hollywood. This goes some of the way to explain why The Last Action Hero was such a colossal box office flop, but isn’t the whole story.
The plot revolves around an 11-year old called Danny. His home life is pretty bleak, his mum works all hours to support them following the death of his father, so he seeks escape at his local cinema. He’s there so often that he’s friends with all the staff and (get this) the projectionist. Projectionist? Wow, remember when they had those? Anyway, Danny’s favourite star is action hardman Jack Slater (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Slater is your cliché action movie hero, starring in your cliché action movie. Cue the angry black lieutenant who shouts all the time. Cue the Christmas hostage siege. Cue the rule-breaking hero, ignoring orders and going to take out the hostage takers himself. How very knowing and droll you are Hollywood…
Danny, being 11, of course laps this up. He can’t wait for Jack Slater IV to hit the screens and given that he’s so buddy-buddy with the projectionist he gets the chance to see it before opening night. Enter the Mcguffin, in the form of a “golden ticket” given to the projectionist by Harry Houdini himself. The golden ticket somehow manages to transport Danny from the cinema and into the backseat of the car of his hero…inside the movie Jack Slater IV. It was at that point exactly where I gave up. Either at that point or during the five minutes of shameless Coca-Cola advertising that came next. Honestly, somehow they’re in some kind of depot for lorries emblazoned with the Coke logo. At one point Slater even jumps the car onto the top of one of them. It was embarrassing.
Anyway, once inside the movie, Danny’s as happy as can be. Finally face-to-face with his hero, he’s in awe of it all. Having already watched the first act of Jack Slater IV before being sucked inside it, he’s able to provide Slater and his shouty lieutenant with details of the case (something to do with mob bosses and Slater’s second cousin being murdered) and somehow that leads to him being partnered with Slater. Erm…he’s 11 years old…oh I see, movie-makers, you old rascals, you’re demonstrating how ludicrous the “Slater world” is by partnering him with an 11 year old… and a cartoon cat. Yeah, we get the joke, but does it really have to be so laboured?
Danny eventually also cottons on to the fact that this is all a bit far-fetched and so tries his damndest to convince Slater that he’s actually just a character in a film. He does this by taking him to a video store and trying to find a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the visual gags is a mock-up of the poster for Terminator 2, this time starring Sylvester Stallone *shudder*. He then writes down a very bad word and tries to convince Slater to say it, knowing he won’t because the movie is only a PG13. How clever.
I won’t bore you with further plot except to say that there is a baddie, played by Charles Dance, and he steals Danny’s golden ticket and escapes into the real world, along with the baddie star of Jack Slater III, who killed Jack’s son during that fateful Christmas siege. Their plan is simple. They’re going to kill Jack Slater, by killing the man who plays him, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jack and Danny follow them into the real world, where Jack learns important lessons, like it hurts to smash a car window in with your fist. I could be wrong, but I think the movie makers are trying to suggest to the audience that they shouldn’t try these things at home. I couldn’t tell, however, because of the clanging sounds of the anvils hitting the ground every time Slater said something about how the real world is like, you know, real.
To be fair to the film there are a couple of funny moments. For example, a cameo from Schwarzenegger’s then- wife Maria Shriver, giving her then-husband a hard time for being an idiot and always plugging Planet Hollywood. There is also a very funny scene where Danny imagines Jack Slater playing Hamlet; “To be or not to be *lights cigar*. Not to be *Elsinore explodes*”.