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Helen: Have you ever killed anyone?
Harry: Yeah, but they were all bad.
A 1994 action comedy (bordering on parody) featuring (of course) Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eliza Dushku as their daughter, Tia Carrere as the Femme Fatale, Bill Paxton as a fake spy, and Tom Arnold as Arnold's sidekick. Directed by James Cameron, meaning there are some sweet explosions. While it's hardly high art, it's good popcorn fun, mostly because it can't really decide whether it's trying to be an action movie or a parody of same, and so does both pretty darn well.
Arnold plays Harry Tasker, who his wife thinks is a mild-mannered computer salesman. Helen, played by Curtis, resents the long business trips he takes, which make it hard for him to keep his appointments with the family. While Harry is tracking a dangerous terrorist, he learns Helen has been seeing someone on the side--a used car salesman pretending to be a spy.
He uses his agency's resources to teach the other man a lesson--and give his wife some adventure--but when a harmless "assignment" he sends Helen on is interrupted by those dangerous terrorists, she finally finds out what he's really been doing on those business trips.
Talks of a sequel were put on hold after September 11th, but at the moment, Cameron and Schwarzenegger are both of the opinion that it should be their first film after Arnold finishes his tenure as Governor of California. Alternately, Cameron is rumored to be adapting it for television.
Based upon the 1991 French movie "La Totale" by Claude Zidi, from which it kept most of the plot, transported it to the USA, and ran it in typical Hollywood style which, honestly, tends to work pretty well for action comedy.
True Lies includes examples of these tropes:
- Accidental Aiming Skills: Helen's first experience with a Mac-10.
- Actor Allusion: "I married Rambo!" Schwarzenegger and Stallone tease each other in their movies.
- Adrenaline Makeover: Helen.
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Action Movie genre, up to that point in cinema history. Ironically, it's now considered a proper action movie in its own right.
- Asshole Victim: See the quote at the top. Given that Harry's under the influence of Truth Serum at the time, he must really believe it. And given that he fights terrorists and trigger-happy enemy agents, it sure seems like it could be true.
- Automaton Horses: Averted with this line: "Make it quick, because my horse is getting tired."
- The horse is also highly averse to the notion of jumping off a hi-rise rooftop.
- Battle Couple
- Between My Legs: You know what I mean...
- Beyond the Impossible: How can we top the previous stunt/action sequence?
- Black Bra and Panties
- Bond One-Liner: "Cool off" after giving a Mook a Swirlie.
- Book Ends: "You do not have time to tango!"
- There's also the opening scene of Harry under icy water, echoed near the end when he's under fiery water.
- Breaking the Bonds: With handcuffs.
- Broken Heel: Averted, as Helen simply takes her heels off and goes barefoot.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Simon.
- Bulletproof Human Shield: Averted. When Aziz walks into restroom with a gun and opens fire, Harry is in a perfect position for this... but instead he just leaves the unfortunate Mook to his doom and leaps for cover very quickly.
- Later on: "Harry: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck." Not a straight example, as Harry using the doctor as a human shield was to make the guard hesitate to fire, not soak bullets.
- The Cameo: Charlton Heston as Omega Sector boss Spencer Trilby.
- Can't Live with Them Can't Live Without Them: And, as Gib notes, can't kill them.
- Cassandra Truth
- Cat Fight
- Catch Phrase: "Sorry!"
- Cool Plane: A Harrier jet.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Aziz is smart enough that once the nuclear device is armed, they bury it in concrete. Disarm that!
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: The limo at the end.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gib
- Description Porn: Harry's description of the Soviet MIRV-6.
- Designated Girl Fight
- Development Hell: The sequel, which now may or may not become a television series instead.
- Did the Earth Move For You, Too?: Harry and Helen make out to the backdrop of a nuclear explosion. And it is awesome.
- Dramatic Deadpan: Harry telling how he'll kill everyone in the Breaking the Bonds scene.
- Enemy Rising Behind: Behind the Big Bad, outside the skyscraper's windows, Harry rises piloting a Harrier jet.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: And so are snowmobiles.
- Eyepatch of Power: It is automatically clear that Charlton Heston's character is a badass even though he just sits at a table and talks, because he is played by Charlton Heston...and because he's wearing an eyepatch.
- Eye Scream: ...then I'm gonna kill that guard over there with that Patterson Trocar on the table...
- Charlton Heston's makeup is detailed enough that it's clear whatever's under his eyepatch is quite a scary sight.
- Fake Nationality: Art Malik, who plays Aziz, is a Pakistani-born British actor, Faisil is played by American-Jewish actor Grant Heslov, and of course Arnold trying to pass off as an American with the surname "Tasker" takes a little bit of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. However, that last one can be explained away: Tasker is actually German or Austrian, and has taken on the persona as part of his cover. During the truth serum scene, the more the serum influences Harry, the thicker his accent gets.
- Femme Fatale: Yes, there is an evil female spy running around.
- Firing in the Air a Lot: The Terrorists' celebration when they are arming the nuke.
- 555: The phone number of Monument Taxi is either 555-2439 (which is on their sign and stickers) or the 800 number written elsewhere on the vehicle.
- For Halloween I Am Going as Myself
- A Glass in the Hand: While watching Simon, the slimy used car salesman, Harry grips the binoculars hard enough to break a lens.
- Government Agency of Fiction: Omega Sector.
- Guns Akimbo
- Groin Attack: The only time you'll feel sympathy for Aziz is when he flies hard into the tail of the Harrier and is hit in the family jewels.
- Gunship Rescue: Harry in the hover-capable Harrier fighter.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: The music-loving janitor is unaware of the conflict outside until the jet crashes through the window.
- Earlier, Harry was trying to stop Dana, whom he caught stealing cash from his wallet, as she was running off with a boyfriend. She completely ignored him as "Sunshine of Your Love" was blaring on her headphones... and, y'know, because she didn't want to be stopped and caught.
- Hell Hotel
- Homage: The opening sequence features Arnold coming out of some water in a wetsuit, then shrugging it off to reveal a black tuxedo underneath. Now, what other superspy has done that...
- Horse Jump: Hilariously subverted when the horse balks at the edge and pitches Harry over the saddle.
- Hot Dad: For the girls, Harry.
- Hot Mom: Oh, hell yeah, Helen.
- Hypocritical Humor: Every insult Juno hurls at Helen would be more appropriate if used against Juno herself. Apart from the "Suzy Homemaker" quip.
- I Have Your Daughter
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: How do you miss a fat guy but hit the lamp post he's standing behind?
- It was an automatic weapon being fired wild from the hip. That kind of bullet spread wouldn't be too far-fetched. (Admittedly, a few grazes would have been likely).
- Note that some bullets hit the pole he's hiding behind just fine.
- It was an automatic weapon being fired wild from the hip. That kind of bullet spread wouldn't be too far-fetched. (Admittedly, a few grazes would have been likely).
- Improbable Aiming Skills
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Tasker smashing in Bill Paxton's face.
- Instant Thunder: At least partially averted. The atomic blast is seen long before we hear it, but since the "minimum safe distance" is stated to be 12 miles, it should've taken at least a minute for the sound to be heard.
- Invincible Hero: Considering this is an Arnold movie, subverted, especially since Jamie Lee Curtis beats him to near-unconsciousness in one scene, and later decks him hard.
- Just Plane Wrong: Harriers are not designed to hover that long, are not bulletproof, and would be un-flyable if it got its instrument panel shot up like it did. More than justified, however, by Rule of Cool.
- Kill It with Fire: Harry turns a fuel truck into a flamethrower by shooting the end of the hose.
- Law of Inverse Recoil: Averted with Helen.
- Lethal Klutz: Played for laughs when Helen accidentally kills a group of terrorists while trying to fire an uzi to save Harry. The recoil causes her to lose control and fumble the weapon, sending it tumbling down the stairs in a slow-motion montage sequence where it continues to fire, taking out several Mooks.
- Lip-Lock Sun-Block
- Little Black Dress: Double Subversion. Helen's dress is horribly out of date (which is against the purpose of the dress), but then she rips off the frills when she sees that is the case.
- The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: One of Helen's reasons for dating Simon. She quickly comes back when she realizes who Harry really is.
- Missing Backblast: Averted, when one of the terrorists fires a Stinger shoulder-fired anti-air missile from a moving panel truck, causing no end of havoc (his comrades even knew it was coming).
- Mission Control: Tom Arnold's character.
"Y'know what? ...I'm sick of being the one in the van. You guys are gonna be in the van next time."
- Mood Whiplash: One of the best comedic moments in the film is probably the "Battery, Aziz" scene - Aziz is making an angry and frightening threat video, when the camcorder runs low on battery. The cameraman lowers the camera, looks pained and apologetic, and explains "battery, Aziz!" Aziz stares at him dumbfounded and coolly rages "...get another one, you moron!" Aziz gives him the "shh!" effect when he tries to apologize further and explain how quickly he can start filming again.
- Ms. Fanservice: Jamie Lee Curtis, Full. Fucking. Stop.
- Seriously, if Ms. Curtis doesn't have a copy of this scene in her possession for "Sexy? No, this is sexy!" claim-making purposes, it's a travesty of justice.
- Also Tia Carrere and her fantastic cleavage and legs.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Crimson Jihad. Also their leader, the "Sand Spider"; When one character asks why he's called that, another responds "Probably because it sounds scary."
- Neck Snap
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Harry has to do this several times, but it borders on ridiculous when he calls a nuclear warhead an espresso machine, just to keep his (obviously blown) cover in front of his wife. To be fair, he was probably also doing it to annoy his captor.
- Oblivious Janitor Cut: The Janitor doesn't notice the jet flying around outside until it crashes into the window.
- Oh Crap: Juno says "oh, SHIT!" when she realizes the limo is about to fall into the ocean after the bridge has been shot out.
- Not to mention the Mook who is looking out of the window with a pair of binoculars looking for Harry's Harry-er jump jet: nothing...nothing...nothing...hey there's a grey thing blocking my vis...FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.
- Then there was the much-abused terrorist panel truck balanced on the edge of the broken bridge. They balance it out and start celebrating ... then a pelican lands on the hood of the truck.
- Only in It For the Money: Juno Skinner states that she's only aiding the terrorists because they're paying her an enormous amount of money for her assistance in their scheme, as she cares for neither their goals nor those of Harry's team.
- Papa Wolf: When his little girl is kidnapped, Harry borrows the aforementioned Harrier Jet to rescue her and face the Big Bad.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil: The above conversation pretty much sums up the trope.
- Pin Pulling Teeth: Harry does this with the grenade he uses as the opening shot of a huge firefight at the enemy's hideout after escaping from being captured.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: It's a Schwarzenegger film, what'd you expect?
- Pretty in Mink: In the background of a few scenes.
- Precision F-Strike: "I was reckless and I was wild, and I fucking did it!"
- Product Placement: Canon camera with a gun in it.
- Prove I Am Not Bluffing: The Crimson Jihad set off one of their nukes in the Florida Keys as a demonstration.
- Rated "M" for Manly: The last hour of the film.
- Refuge in Audacity: The idea of anyone being unharmed when someone tries to shoot them with a machine gun, at a distance of about 10 paces with basically no cover, is very implausible. Make the target Tom Arnold, though, and make him rely on a street lamp post for cover, and who cares how plausible it is?
- Rip Tailoring: Helen rips off the frilly sleeves of her dress, and shortens it considerably, when preparing to meet a suspected arms dealer.
- Rule of Cool: Multiple examples, but one that particularly stands out is when Harry is being chased down a hill through trees by guys on skis firing guns (that are held with both hands). While Harry manages to shoot most of them with his Improbable Aiming Skills, they rarely run into anything. However, there is a snowmobile crash, which causes an explosion.
- Rule of Funny: The above-mentioned incident where Gib hides behind a lamppost and the bullets hit the lamppost, but not him (he checks to make he's completely intact. And several other moments, including the Improbable Aiming Skills moment with the gun bouncing down the stairs.
- Sarcastic Confession: See Truth Serum exchange below.
- Searching the Stalls: Tasker hides from a gun-wielding terrorist inside a bathroom stall. The terrorist hoses down the stalls with his machine gun, and begins opening each stall. Before he gets to Tasker's hiding place, Tasker bursts out of his stall and escape
- Shout-Out: When Harry's disguised voice identifies Helen's contact as "Boris" and starts to identify her, she pipes up, "Natasha?"
- Shur Fine Guns: The Accidental Aiming Skills scene.
- Slap Slap Kiss
- Slipped the Ropes: Harry does this in the interrogation scene, right after telling his interrogator how he's going to kill him.
Harry: "You know my handcuffs?"
Harry: *holds up his hands* "I picked them." *proceeds to do exactly what he just said he would*
- Soft Glass: Several scenes feature this trope, but the best one is when Harry insists that Gibs hand him the missing page of the transcript, and shatters the car window with his bare fist. (Funny story: Ahnold was actually supposed to break a different window, which had been replaced with safety glass. Adds a bit of weight to the look on Tom Arnold's face, when he sees that his co-star just broke a real car window with his bare fist.)
- Surprisingly averted in the Designated Girl Fight when Helen hits Juno with the Champagne bottle.
- Spy's Suspicious Spouse: Inverted as Harry is the one suspecting his spouse of cheating, while Helen completely believes Harry's cover stories for being gone all the time and never suspects anything odd about it, only frustration that he is gone all the time.
- Stealth Parody: It's closer to an Affectionate Parody as it gently pokes fun at the excesses of 80's and 90's action flicks while indulging in those excesses itself.
- Stealth Pun: Probably unintentional, but the song that is used for the tango scenes, "Por una Cabeza", was about a compulsive horse racing gambler and how he compares his addiction to horses with his attraction to women. Not long after that, we have the horse/motorcycle chase.
- Surprise Vehicle: That Harrier jet again.
- Tagline: "When he said "I do", he never said what he did."
- The Deadliest Mushroom
- This Is Sparta!: "NO! I DID (slam) NOT (slam) SLEEP (slam) WITH HIM!!! (slam slam)"
- Throw-Away Guns: After the horseback chase, Harry ends up tossing away his sidearm. Off the top of a building.
- Throw It In: Word of God says that Curtis's slip and fall during the stripper dance wasn't scripted, and you can even see Arnold jumping out of the chair to see if she's alright. She instead jumped right back up and continued the dance, with Arnold sitting back down quickly. Luckily, all of this is perfectly in character (Harry would obviously be concerned about his wife, and then hastily attempt to maintain The Masquerade when the show goes on) and it ends up as one of the funniest scenes of the movie.
- Triang Relations
- Trailers Always Lie: The original trailer showed Jamie Lee Curtis in an interrogation chamber being grilled about her husband. Her interrogator is her husband, and he's more interested in whether she's cheating on him.
- Truth Serum: Leading to the page quote, not to mention...
Harry: Ask me something I would normally lie about.
Helen: ...Are they going to kill us?
Harry: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck.
Samir: And how are you going to do all that?
Harry: You know my handcuffs?
Harry: I picked them.
(Samir gives an "Ah, Fuck" look and gasps in horror.)
(Harry proceeds to do exactly what he had just said.)
- Try and Follow: The villain jumps from one building to another in a motorcycle. Arnie's horse refuses to do the same.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Hilariously subverted in Harry's escape from the Torture Technician.
- Wafer-Thin Mint: A teetering car goes over the edge thanks to a bird landing on the hood. To be fair, pelicans are damn big birds.
- We Have Ways of Making You Talk
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Twice. Juno Skinner keeps her business card in her bra. Likewise, Helen hides the transmitter bug between her breasts, but quickly loses it when her Dress Hits The Floor.
- Zany Scheme