"Ey, Claudius? *lights cigar* You killed my fadda. Big mistake."
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 (primarily parodies) of the following tropes:
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.
Adam Westing: Taken to meta-levels. Arnold plays himself in the real world as a flighty celebrity led around by his wife.
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.
And This Is for...: Jack smacks the shit out of Benedict with a bunch of "And this is for!" statements - except for his ex-wife's home, which he gives a little slap on the wrist for.
Angrish: Slater's captain. In fact, you can probably count on one hand the times where it is possible to make out what he is saying.
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?
Bond One-Liner: Yep, the bad puns go flying thick and fast. Lampshaded and taken to the most absurd extreme in several cases, most notably a scene in the car chase where Slater kills a henchman with an ice cream cone and says, "I 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! Benedict: No, I just left one chamber empty. (And he shoots.)
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."
As Danny walks into the LAPD police station for the first time, Catherine Trammell and the T-1000 can be seen walking out.
The officer that shouts "Hey Slater! It's your ex-wife on two!" when Slater and Danny show up at the police station is played by Mike Muscat, who had previously played Moshier in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, as the Cyberdyne Systems security guards who calls the police to say, "I think it's that guy from the mall. Him and the woman" when Miles Dyson shows up with the Terminator and Sarah Connor in tow. Muscat was also Edward Furlong (John Connor)'s acting coach.
The Jack Slater IV premiere apparently desires to showcase as many celebrity cameos as possible, including a few who have connections to Schwarzenegger: Little Richard, Entertainment Tonight host Leeza Gibbons, James Belushi (who starred with Schwarzenegger in Red Heat), Damon Wayans, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton (the James Bond actor at that time) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who worked with John McTiernan on Predator as the original Predator before dropping out)
Joan Plowright, Laurence Olivier's wife, is the teacher who introduces his version of Hamlet and says the kids might recognize him as Zeus from Clash of the Titans and some Polaroid camera commercials.
In a blink or you'll miss it cameo, Tina Turner plays the Mayor at the climax of Jack Slater III.
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.)note Then again, fictional characters are immortal.
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.
Creator Backlash: A bizarre in-universe inversion, where Jack tells Arnold Schwarzenegger that he despises him.
Damsel in Distress: Parodied like everything else in this film. Slater's daughter is attacked by a bunch of thugs and screams in terror..... while actually being the one kicking their asses. At one point she breaks one of their necks right before letting out another scream.
Benedict: No, I'm afraid I only go so far as lackey.
Deconstruction: 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, still inside the movie world, Jack Slater reveals that under his Deadpan Snarker typecasting he's mostly just tired after repeatedly surviving implausible, stressful scenarios while everyone around him dies. Among other things, he's got a cashier at his drug store calling him at the police station so that his colleagues think he has a life and make everyone think his ex-wife still cares about him (she's remarried and moved on), and he's deeply depressed that his Action Girl daughter Whitney 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.
Jack: Let us push his son off the building. You will have eternal nightmares, but you are fictional, so who cares?
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.
Dirt Forcefield: Jack Slater is spotless within seconds of crawling out of the La Brea Tar Pits; naturally this is Lampshaded by Danny.
Distant Reaction Shot: When the detective finds Benedict's missing glass eye, he turns it and it reads "Vengeance is Mine". Slater yells, "Don't touch it!" and the scene promptly cuts to a distant view of the hillside as a giant fireball appears.
Even Evil Has Standards: After Benedict arrives in the real world, he's propositioned by an underage junkie prostitute in downtown New York. Even a bonafide Card-Carrying Villain from Movie Land such as he is disturbed by this, and voices his disgust by asking her how old she is. Seconds later, he's similarly shocked that a homeless man was murdered by two others for his shoes.
Extended Disarming: During the opening scene, Jack is told to disarm. The Ripper (having apparently heard of some of Jack's exploits), isn't satisfied with him just dropping the pistol in his hand, and insists on seeing the rest of it. Jack takes quite some time removing his knife, and then the rest of his pistols, and the Ripper is only duly impressed after double-checking whether that really was all of it. Slater tells him it is....unless a "grenade" with a blade that pops out of it counts.
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 as the black van that was chasing them attempts to copy Slater's stunt, fails, and crashes in a massive fireball 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. The Ripper himself notes that the rooftop scene is exactly like Jack Slater III, so he decides to skip the talking and just toss the kid (Danny in this case) right away rather than wait.
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! Instead of being another fictional character, he's indicated to be the real Grim Reaper. He even knows when Danny will die.
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.
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 in the scene where Slater is being chewed out by his hammy boss. Danny tells Slater, "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.
The movie itself surprisingly has it's share of hidden depths. For instance Danny's idealism towards Slater is due to the fact that he didn't have a father around as it's just his mother thats raising him and Jack is the closest that Danny has as a father figure.
Jack is also apparently very charming when not having to exercise action movie tropes 24/7 - and pleased to realize it, too.
High Voltage Death: Slater dispatches the Ripper using electricity; While on a rainy rooftop The Ripper throws an axe at him, Jack takes the axe and uses it to chop open a nearby powerbox. He climbs onto the side of the building and pushes the cut power lines into the puddles Ripper is standing in, electrocuting Ripper to death.
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 Whitney in his clutches, "If you harm one hair on her—-" Benedict 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 in that same scene. Benedict is shocked to discover that you can steal a car in the real world without police 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."
Only slightly. It manage to have it's share of grim moments due to several Would Hurt a Child moments with Slater's kid being killed and Danny getting close to getting killed himself. There is also some disturbing moments such as Danny's encounter with a robber.
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?"
Noticing The Fourth Wall: Half the plot of the movie revolves around this, with fictional police officer Jack Slater not only having to face the repercussions of being transported to the real world, where the physics of his overblown action film world do not apply, but eventually even bumping into the actor who plays him. Hilarity Ensues. Naturally, Slater does not take any of it well.
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'."
Rage Against the Author: Slater's got some pretty understandable anger against the writers who killed off his son in the third movie. He also rips into Schwarzenegger 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.
They are both shown that the women in the real world aren't anything like the movie in their world. In Slater's case he's more at ease in just having a conversation with Danny's mom, who, though not unattractive (being played by Mercedes Ruehl), but hardly the supermodels he normally meets, while Benedict was caught off guard by the appearance of a young prostitute.
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 Meredith Caprice 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.
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 Danny 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.
Benedict actually. He's under the impression he can control the ticket, and tries to use it to warp out when he's about to lose. Unfortunately for him, the ticket only does things when it wants to.
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.