Summer of Schwarzenegger - "True Lies" (1994)


James Cameron is widely considered to be somewhat of a visionary. His movies take us back in time, transport us to different planets, and put us in the trenches of the war for humanity's future. Most of his movies have huge budgets, all of which get put towards explosive, in-your-face special effects and lavish set pieces, essential to fulfilling his directorial vision. All of this, and Cameron somehow finds time to explore the remnants of the Titanic, dive down inside the Mariana Trench, and get a frog named after him.

He also directed a movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis share a romantic kiss while a nuclear bomb explodes in the background.

True Lies is one of the absolute stupidest movies I've ever watched. A guy gets snagged on a fighter jet missile and fired into a helicopter, and that's after he hits his balls on the tail of the jet. Jamie Lee Curtis drops an Uzi down a staircase, but somehow, the gun fires off a whole clip with enough accuracy to take out about a dozen terrorists. Arnold chases a motorcycle-riding bad guy on horseback down city streets, through buildings, and, eventually, into an elevator.

Yes. Arnold rides a horse into an elevator to chase a man on a motorcycle. This is a real movie that exists.

Somehow, stuff that happens in True Lies puts even the dumbest bits of Arnold's oeuvre to shame. The former Governator fighting a bear in Hercules in New York or getting pregnant through artificial insemination in Junior (the next movie in this plunge into the darkest corners of cinematic history)... neither of those seem as bad anymore. I mean, at least in those movies, there wasn't a scene where Arnold tries to jump a horse between two skyscrapers. Like, that doesn't even make sense. Of course, it ends up not happening, but he tries to do it, and for a second there, I was convinced that a horse would sail hundreds of feet through the air. Because why not? Why the fuck not?

And if you think the action sounds stupid, just wait until you get a load of the plot. First off, Arnold is married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Already unrealistic, but moving on. Arnold is a secret agent, but Curtis thinks that he's a computer salesman, and she's bored with their marriage, so she starts up a sort-of affair with a smarmy car salesman who's pretending to be a secret agent. Then, Arnold finds out and starts tailing and anonymous terrorizing his own wife, then ends up recruiting her into fake undercover missions because he's convinced her that the car salesman was actually a terrorist. So, he convinces her to go "undercover" as a prostitute and give him a lap dance, only, she doesn't know he's the one she's giving a lap dance, because he obscures his face. Then they both get kidnapped by terrorists and all hell breaks loose.

Jesus Christ, I feel several degrees less intelligent just writing that out.


On top of how dumb everything is, I couldn't stop marveling that this was a James Cameron movie. No, not just one he directed. This is something he wrote. The same man who brought us Aliens and Terminator 2 wrote a movie with nut shots, pole dances and nuclear explosions. The guy who's considered an auteur wrote a movie that treated global terrorism as a farcical vehicle for a marital troubles comedy. I don't think I can look at the guy the same way again. And on top of that? This was the first movie that cost over $100 Million to make. Over $100 Million. For... for this.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

See, True Lies is one of the most over-the-top, ridiculous, absurd, illogical movies I've ever seen. It's basically the Saints Row of Hollywood blockbusters. The thing is? It totally commits. Cameron, smart as he is, probably got drunk off his ass and wrote the stupidest thing he could think of. Someone looked over the script and said, "James, you can't make this, this is insane!" And then, glimmer in his eye, Cameron uttered, "Get fucked." Then, at the height of his Hollywood clout, Cameron sunk an obscene amount of money into making his stupid, stupid, stupid screenplay into a summer blockbuster.

That's how I like to imagine it happened, anyway.

Look, I'm not trying to say True Lies is a masterpiece. In terms of intelligent, nuanced writing, it's probably the worst movie James Cameron's ever made. Well. Actually. Avatar begs to differ. Anyway. It's a dumb movie. But it's so fully committed to its own unique, baffling brand of "dumb" that I can't help but to be charmed. It's like a third-grader wrote a movie and somehow got it made into a slick, fun, exciting production.

If you're able to suspend disbelief and turn your brain off for 141 minutes, True Lies is some of the most fun you can have with a movie.

Comments

  1. I enjoy this movie because it is so bad and improbable. The plot lines, the poor humor, the sidekicks...it's ridiculous. But it commits on a level that should be obscene. Your assessment of the movie is spot on. Turn off your brain to revel in the spectacle.

    It still floors me that this is a James Cameron movie. And then I'm reminded of Avatar and realize that yep, this is Cameron. James Cameron does what James Cameron does, because James Cameron. *shrugs*

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