Last Action Hero is 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.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays indestructible screen superhero Jack Slater, whose prophetic signature phrase to his enemies when they try to harm him is, ‘Big Mistake’. That’s what he’s made here.
The central problem is that the picture is based on a gimmick [from a screen story by Zack Penn and Adam Leff] rather than a story, so the viewer is presented with a succession of arbitrary scenes in which nothing is at stake because, in context, it’s almost all ‘fiction’ anyway.
Little 11-year-old Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) is invited by projectionist friend Nick (Robert Prosky) to a midnight private screening of Slater’s latest picture, simply titled Jack Slater IV. Nick presents Danny with a golden magic ticket, a ‘passport to another world’ handed down from Houdini, with which Danny passes into the world onscreen.
Benedict (Charles Dance), sinister triggerman of a mobster (Anthony Quinn), comes into possession of the magic ticket and takes his evil ways into the ‘real’ world of Times Square, followed by Danny and Slater, who is dismayed to discover that violence can actually hurt and that his entire life has been lived in movies.
It’s all heavy, empty and exceptionally noisy. On a character level, Arnold is Arnold. Everyone else seems to have checked in for a nice payday. Jabbering incessantly and always badgering his hero, O’Brien, onscreen most of the time, delivers a one-note performance.