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 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.
Action Girl: Deconstructed. Slater tells Danny that he wishes his daughter, Whitney, was more normal. He later tells Danny that she has no friends or social life, and spends all her spare time with her guns. Also a possible subversion, given that Whitney hardly does anything, despite her actress receiving top billing alongside Schwarzeneggar (in Jack Slater IV, that is). It's possible that Danny stepping in meant he took over her role as Slater's sidekick.
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.
Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Jack Slater IV premiere 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.
Anachronism Stew: Played for laughs during the Arnold as Hamlet dream sequence. It starts off with Hamlet killing people with thrown skulls and swords before responding to the line "Stay thy hand, fair prince" with a "Who says I'm fair?" and slaughtering an entire castle full of guards with a submachine gun before blowing the castle up.
Hamlet: To be, or not to be...not to be. *lights cigar as an explosion goes off behind him*
Benedict: I snap my fingers again and tomorrow you emerge from several canine recta. Or you and Toto can go back to Oz. Questions?
Jack: Yes. Two of them. Why am I wasting time on a putz like you when I could be doing something dangerous like rearranging my socks? (smokes cigar) And how will you snap your fingers after I rip off both your thumbs?
Bullet Proof Fashion Plate: Played with: Jack falls into a tar pit, comes out completely covered in tar, and begins to wipe himself off. The camera cuts away briefly, and when it cuts back he's completely clean. Danny remarks, "You know, tar actually sticks to some people."
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."
Jack: Hah! You didn't know I was going to say that, did you? Danny: That's what youalways say. Jack: I do?
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.
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".
In-universe, a wad of counterfeit bills that Jack keeps in his house, notable for burning an odd color. When Danny tries to convince Benedict to take the money and leave, he calls his bluff and orders the money burned... which serves as a signal to warn Jack that something's wrong.
Chekhov's Gunman: Whiskers shows up to save Slater and Danny when Practice handcuffs them again and attempts to kill them.
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 Plucky Comic Relief, 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.
Perhaps not even then; the Reaper says that Jack isn't on any of his lists. (Which makes him curious enough to investigate.)
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've brought me nothing but pain."
Cowboy Cop: The character of Jack Slater plays with this trope.
Did You Just Have Sex?: Played rather subtly, this being a PG-13 movie, but Danny's usually bitter and world-weary widowed mother is awfully cheerful the next morning after meeting this Jack Slater guy her son has just befriended. Very likely subverted, however, in that Jack later remarks how happy he was to spend time just talking with a woman for a change.
A fascinating form of it: While most action tropes are simply lampshaded to the point of lunacy when Danny 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 Danny was shocked to see, but nevertheless, he was able to get him out of this funk to continue the action of the movie.
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 oppose him properly. 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.
Extended Disarming: During the opening scene, Jack is told to disarm. The villain (having apparently heard of some of Jack's exploits), isn't satisfied with his just dropping the gun he was pointing, and insists on seeing the rest of it. Jack takes quite some time getting out the rest of it, and the villain is only duly impressed after double-checking whether that really was all of it. The last piece of this arsenal is a "grenade" with a blade that pops out of it.
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.
Fridge Logicinvoked: A rare in-universe Invoked Trope. Death calmly comments that Danny is an idiot because he hadn't bothered to look for the other half of the magic ticket. Danny gives himself a mental Face Palm.
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 Danny, then Benedict and later Jack Slater.
During the attack at the home, Jack's daughter, Whitney is slapped by one of the thugs in her bedroom and when this happens, she says "big mistake" and proceeds to use her right foot to kick him in the groin while lifting him over her via the groin kick at the same time so that she can eventually jump and stomp on him.
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.
Jack: You think I would have married someone who can't tell my real voice from a taped one? I pay a cashier to call me at work, so the guys think I have a life. My ex-wife is happily remarried. She never calls. And Whitney—why can't she be a normal teenager? On prom night she stays home to field strip an AK-47! She's going to die a young maid, I know it. I'm going to buy it soon, too.
I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: In-universe: The opening credits of Jack Slater IV give an And Introducing credit to Meredith Caprice, the fictional actress who plays Whitney. When he actually meets her, Danny keeps accidentally calling her Meredith.
Idiot Ball: "You're a very brave young man. Unfortunately, you're not very bright. If I were you... I might be looking for the other half of the ticket."
If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Invoked when Danny growls at Benedict when he has Madison in his clutches, "If you harm one hair on her—-" the Big Bad interrupts, "Hold!", deliberately plucks a hair out of her head, then snaps it in front of Danny, daring him to finish his threat.
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. If they're even aware that it's a parody at all.
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 yelling at him to quit making a racket.
Danny tries to make one out of John Practice's Catchphrase ("How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"), with little success.
When Benedict escapes from the movie, Danny suggests leaving after him. When Jack asks if he has a way to get back, Danny tells him he can't nitpick every single little thing. Upon reaching the real world, they find that Benedict's nowhere to be found, and Danny promptly wonders how Jack can get back. "That's a good question. But we wouldn't want to nitpick."
Danny's encounter with the burglar, which leaves a Chekhov's Gun (the key to the handcuffs) and gives Danny and Jack an 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.
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?
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Lampshaded and mocked. Danny points out that Slater's thick Austrian accent is weird for a native Angeleno. Slater's response? "Egghcent? Vaht egghcent?"
Once per 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. He then says it costs him a fortune in closet doors.
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. When Slater is shot in the real world, part of the post-climax is getting him back into the movie world, making this a rare case where the trope is actually invoked!
Plucky Comic Relief: The kid realizes he is this during a game of "Chicken" with a car, while riding a bike.
Danny: I'm the comedy sidekick... Oh, shit, I'm the comedy sidekick! This isn't going to work!
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.
Reality Ensues: The entire second half of the film revolves around both Slater and Benedict realizing that the rules of their world don't coincide with that of the real world. Slater discovers that his gunfire won't automatically blow up a vehicle, that his hand hurts when he punches a window out, and that car crashes are much dangerous than he thinks. Meanwhile, Benedict discovers that he can kill with impunity and no one notices.
Recursive Reality: There are movies in Jack Slater's universe, making them movies within a movie ... within a movie.
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.
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.
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.
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 immediately 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.
Also just about weaponized by Jack at one point, showing he was getting almost as Dangerously Genre Savvy as Benedict, in the chicken scene listed under Mood Whiplash. He realizes full well the dangers of a head-on collision in the real world, but also realizes the goon he's staring down doesn't. He explicitly points out (after the fact) the model vehicle he had was better designed for a head-on collision and he was wearing a seatbelt and had an airbag, while the bad guy wasn't and didn't. He just underestimated HOW MUCH it was going to hurt.
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.
Leads to a brilliant Woolseyism in the German and French versions, where he calls himself "Arnold Beckenbauer". Google it if you don't know the name; any- and everyone in Germany- wait, in the world does.
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.
Wait Here: Lampshaded when Jack tells Danny to stay in the car while he goes off to locate a bomb:
Jack: Stay in the car. Danny: No, I am coming with you. Jack:(annoyed) Let us say this is a movie; if someone says "stay in the car" and the guy does not, what happens? Danny: He saves the day. Jack: Or gets killed. Danny: Good point; I will stay. (Jack begins walking off) Danny: Wait a minute! What if staying in the car is what gets me killed? Jack:(aggravated) ...There's a gun in the glove compartment!
What Happened to the Mouse?: The Grim Reaper advises Daniny 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.
When Dimensions Collide: Although Jack Slater loses his action-hero resistance to pain when he visits the real world, Death is not so restricted, apparently carrying the laws of his home reality with him. Perhaps because in his home universe Jack is only an exceptionally athletic man, while Death is a powerful supernatural being by the standards of his universe.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded and inverted when John Practice turns against Jack; Danny's explanation of this trope is long enough for the bad guys to get the drop on him as well. ("You ain't no genius yourself, kid.")
Danny: (to Jack) I don't see you coming up with ideas.
Then double-inverted, as the bad guy does the exact same thing, except he actually gets shot, because the one who shot him is the previously-mentioned animated cat detective who is bound only to Toon Physics and Rule of Funny.
Jack: Whiskers! What kept you?
Wicked Cultured: Benedict, who is way more worldly than any other character, especially Vivaldi.
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.