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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.
This movie provides examples of the following:
- 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: Whitney Slater.
- Deconstructed. Slater tells Danny that he wishes his daughter were more "normal". He tells Danny that she has no friends or social life, and spends all her spare time with her guns.
- Actor Allusion: The Stallone-Schwarzenegger jabs continue. In Slater's world, Stallone is The Terminator. Danny cannot believe it. More directly, the fact that F. Murray Abraham played Salieri in Amadeus is mentioned, then it becomes a plot point.
- 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 lieutenant.
- 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!
- His smug grin says it all.
- Aside Glance: The Grim Reaper before he comes out of The Seventh Seal.
- Audience Surrogate: Danny is a literal one. Naturally, like everything else in the film, this is lampshaded.
- Ax Crazy: The Ripper.
- Badass: Parodied.
- Badass Boast: A genuine one by Jack Slater.
Benedict: I snap my fingers again and tomorrow you emerge from several canine recta. Or you and Toto can go back to Oz. Questions?
- 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.
- Big Bad Friend: John Practice.
- Blown Across the Room: Parodied.
- Bond One-Liner: Lampshaded and taken to the most absurd extreme in several cases, most notably a scene in which Jack kills a villain with an ice cream cone and says, "Iced that guy...to cone a phrase!" This becomes Hilarious in Hindsight considering what Arnold would go on to do...
- Bottomless Magazines: Lampshaded, particularly in the climax. And played straight in the movie whenever possible, sometimes to ridiculous degrees.
Jack: Did you make another movie mistake? You forgot to reload the damn gun!
- Breakaway Pop Hit: Upon the film's release, "What the Hell Have I", a new Alice in Chains song recorded for the film's soundtrack was better received than the movie.
- As well as "Angry Again" by Megadeth.
- Buddy Cop Show: Parodied, and lampshaded in a hilarious scene with a line of cops being paired up with ethnic stereotypes culminating ridiculously with a female cop being paired with an animated cat detective.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: Played with. Danny warns Slater not to trust Practice, because "he killed Mozart" (a reference to the actor, F. Murray Abraham, having done so in Amadeus). When Slater later repeats the accusation, misremembering it as "you killed Moe Zart," Practice is confused, but concedes it's possible: "I kill a lot of people. I can't remember half of them."
- The Cameo: In addition to several sight gags earlier in the film, the Jack Slater IV premiere apparently desires to showcase as many celebrity cameos as possible, including other action stars like Jean Claude Van Damme.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Benedict
- Cassandra Truth: At first, neither Jack Slater or Da Chief believe Danny's claims that he's from outside the movie.
- Catch Phrase: "I'll be back."
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.
- Also, 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".
- Christmas Rushed: It was rushed to open for the 1993 big summer movie season, to the point that post-production on the film was only finished a few weeks before its initial release.
- Contractual Immortality: Lampshaded. Danny tries to invoke this this with Benedict by playing Chicken with him while Danny is on a girl's bike, and Benedict is in a limo. Danny keep saying that because he's the hero, it has to work, but backs off at the last second after realizing he's just the Sidekick, and this trope does not apply to him.
- Danny also tries to remind Jack of this when he tries to play Chicken in the real world.
- Also Lampshaded when Danny tells Jack he can't die until the box office grosses wane.
- Could Have Been Messy: Lampshaded.
- 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!"
- Da Chief
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Benedict is Genre Savvy already, but becomes more so after his escape from the Jack Slater film.
- Different World, Different Movies: Mixed with Celebrity Paradox. Because the movie's main character is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this world the main character of The Terminator is played by Sylvester Stallone.
- Dirt Forcefield: Jack Slater is spotless within seconds of crawling out of the La Brea Tar Pits; naturally this is Lampshaded by Danny.
- The Dragon: Mr. Benedict is introduced as Vivaldi's right-hand-man. However, he turns on his employer immediately after finding much better prospects.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Apparently, he didn't notice until he found the ticket.
- 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!
- Diabolus Ex Machina: In-universe, at the end of Jack Slater III. Lampshaded by Jack.
Jack: Let us push his son off the building. You will have eternal nightmares, but you are fictional, so who cares?
- The Don: Tony Vivaldi.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Parodied, also by taking it to the extreme. Later, Deconstructed and averted as they go to the real world.
- A particularly egregious example has a bad guy shot, fly through the air, and through the windshield of an ice cream truck...which inexplicably explodes.
- Everyone Is Armed: The funeral scene.
- Evil Brit: Benedict, played by a deliciously hammy Charles Dance.
- Extended Disarming: During the opening scene, Jack is told to disarm. It takes him several seconds, during which the villain and his hostages stare at him in disbelief. His arsenal includes a grenade with a knife that pops out of it.
- Fantastic Racism: Jack accuses Daniel of this after he points out that Whiskers the cat shouldn't be a police detective because he's a cartoon.
Slater: He's supposed to be back! He was only suspended for a month! So what's your point?
- 555: Lampshaded: "That's why we have area codes!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- On the other hand, Benedict can shoot his giant revolver one-handed in the real world.
- 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
- 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 The 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.
- Non-Fatal Explosions
- 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.
- 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.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Used to maximum effect by Benedict.
- Rooftop Confrontation
- 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 ET the Extraterrestrial.
- 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!
- Trapped In Movie Land
- Troperiffic: The whole point of the movie is lampshading, deconstructing, reconstructing, subverting and inverting as many action movie tropes as possible.
- Turn in Your Badge: Complete with smoke coming out the ears.
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.