When he’s not out saving the world from terrorists, Harry Tasker is a loving husband and father to a family which thinks he’s a computer salesman despite his muscular physique. But the strange hours and many business trips are taking its toll on the family as his teenage daughter Dana ignores him and his wife Helen is looking for some action in her life. When a used car salesmen tries to sneak his way into her panties by posing as a secret agent, promising her action and a chance to save the country, she wants to take this opportunity to feel alive. Meanwhile Harry is so obsessed by the discovery that his wife might be having an affair he sets up an elaborate scheme to confront her and subsequently reveal his true profession to her. But a terrorist group, in possession of nuclear weapons, prevents that from happening as they kidnap both of them. Harry has to safe the world with the last person he would ever expect at his side: his wife.
True Lies is the kind of action movie that could only have been made in the 90s: a high concept action movie with a comedic twist, great special effects, a lot of green screen work and generally over the top. It’s at first a typical Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but he’s surrounded with a great supporting cast consisting of Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Arnold, giving this movie an extra layer the same way the extraterrestrial villain in Predator or the Mars setting in Total Recall did. Harry quips plenty of one-liners and has enough trademark Schwarzenegger quotes like “get down”, but the real scene stealers are Curtis and Arnold. Especially Curtis has to perform a wide range switching from mousy house-wife to a sensual prostitute to a kick-ass heroine as she slams a champagne bottle over Tia Carrere’s head. There’s also a small part by Bill Paxton doing his best Bill Paxton.
The script has a different pace than regular 3-act movies have as the movie incorporates a lengthy subplot about the affair Helen is seemingly having. It’s an original and completing addition as it’s almost fluidly connected to the main terrorist plot. However the subplot and an extra finale where daughter Dana is in danger do make the movie quite long as the running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. The subplot takes fully over after the terrorist leader gets away in an early scene. The terrorists aren’t heard of anymore up until the moment they barge into the hotel room and take Harry and Helen as prisoners. They seemingly come out of nowhere and one or two small scenes about them during the subplot would have been better.
True Lies is a movie that probably couldn’t be made in today’s political climate. The subject matter of a Muslim terrorist organization setting of a nuclear warhead on US soil is something that doesn’t suit an action comedy today. The terrorists are portrayed as 2-dimensional villains and Schwarzenegger is impervious to bullets. This is a fun and over the top movie, but there will be people having trouble the way they make the villains at some moments almost look like cartoon characters. One scene has them all running into the gun fire of a falling Uzi.
I enjoy the escapist entertainment True Lies provides. Schwarzenegger is on his A-game here as are Curtis and Arnold. The movie is filled with inventive action sequences and appropriate as well inappropriate humor. Who can forget the image of Arnold Schwarzenegger on a horse chasing a terrorist on a motor cycle through a hotel lobby or Jamie Lee Curtis’ sensual hotel room dance? She might have never been one of Hollywood’s most attractive leading ladies, but she does show that she can be very sexy in this movie.
True Lies would be the last time James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger made a movie together. It’s a shame because every movie they have made together is a classic in its own right. True Lies might not go down in the history the same way the two Terminator movies did, but it’s a very entertaining and funny action movie.