Film / True Lies

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/true-lies-poster1_4171.jpg

Helen: Have you ever killed anyone?
Harry: Yeah, but they were all bad.

A 1994 action comedy (bordering on parody) starring (of course) Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Action Hero, Jamie Lee Curtis as the wife, Eliza Dushku as their daughter, Tia Carrere as the Femme Fatale, Charlton Heston as Harry's boss, Bill Paxton as a sleazy womanizer, and Tom Arnold as Arnold's beleaguered partner. It's 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 - possibly due to the infallible combination of Cameron and Schwarzenegger - does both pretty darn well.

Arnold plays Harry Tasker, who his wife thinks is a mild-mannered computer salesman; in truth, he's a top agent for the clandestine Omega Sector, the United States' "last line of defense". 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 off once more 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 the dangerous terrorists he was tracking, she finally finds out what he's really been doing on those business trips.

Despite both Cameron and Schwarzenegger wanting to make a sequel, plans were mired in Development Hell by both Arnold's political tenure and the September 11th attacks; there they eventually died. As an alternative, 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 over to America, and ran it in typical Hollywood style which, honestly, tends to work pretty well for action comedy. It spawned a top-down shooter Licensed Game of same title on fifth-generation consoles and the Game Boy.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Helen's first experience with a Mac-10 involves taking out about half a dozen mooks.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When he finds out that Simon is bullshitting spy stories — and taking credit for his own missions — to seduce Helen, even Harry thinks it's hilarious for at least a moment.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Frumpy Helen becomes faux-sexy while she believes she's Working Off The Debt, but the real adventure with her husband awakens something in her. By the end of the film, Helen is genuinely sexy, romance with Harry rekindled.
  • Adorkable: Helen's dancing while she's undercover. Especially when she briefly falls over and gets back up to continue dancing (which was Jamie Lee Curtis actually falling down).
  • 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. Also of Schwarzenegger himself, as well as James Bond movies.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: After the horse refuses to make a suicidal jump, Arnie chides his 'partner' for letting him down. The horse shies away as if ashamed.
  • Appropriated Appellation: At the end of the movie, Harry and Helen are using their Boris and Doris codenames for real.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: When Harry decides to take the Harrier to rescue Dana, Gib is quick to point out that it has been 10 years since he's flown one. It shows in his takeoff...
  • Artistic License:
    • From the many action movie Rule of Cool impossibilities to having hi-rise buildings in Washington DC.
    • The janitor seen in one of the other buildings during the final action sequence. Obviously meant to generate laughs, because in Real Life, in a situation like that, the building would have been completely evacuated.
  • 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: Harry's commandeered horse does not want to jump off of a hi-rise rooftop and Harry knows that it can't run forever.
    Harry: Make it quick. My horse is getting tired.
    Gib: Your horse?
  • Battle Couple: Harry and Helen become this in the film's final act.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted when Helen gives Skinner a good slap, leaving a minute cut on her cheek since her ring was diamond-side down.
  • Between My Legs: A few shots of this during the dancing-in-bra-and-panties scene.
  • Big Bad: The Crimson Jihad leader Salim Abu Aziz serves as the film's main antagonist and is responsible for the all the danger in this plot.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The part where Harry Blah Blah Blahs a Rousing Speech by Aziz. The first part of the rant literally is "We shall triumph over the evil Americans" and the rest is complete gibberish.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Book ends the film.
    • In the Action Prologue, Harry Tasker infiltrates a gala hosted by an Arab underworld figure in Switzerland in order to steal Forensic Accounting intelligence from the mark's computer. In an homage to the opening of Goldfinger, he sneaks in underwater with a tuxedo under his drysuit.
    • In the epilogue, Harry and Helen are at a similar gala apparently looking to meet up with a contact.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Harry translates a Rousing Speech by Aziz as, "We are set on our course. No force can stop us now. We're cool, we're badasses, blah, blah, blah, blah." This is actually more or less literal.
  • Blunt "Yes": There's a hilarious example when Harry and Helen are waiting to be executed by the terrorists; Harry explains to her that he's been injected with sodium pentothal, making him incapable of lying.
    Helen: So how do we know if it's working?
    Harry: Ask me something I'd normally lie about.
    Helen: Are we going to die?
    Harry: Yep!
    Helen: I'd say it's working.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • Harry has one after giving a mook a swirlie.
      Harry: Cool off!
    • Harry has another one just before firing a missile that Aziz is hanging from.
      Harry: You're fired!
  • Book-Ends:
    • Gib has some frustrations about Harry's priorities while on a mission.
      Gib: 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.
    • The family shares several strained dinners throughout the film, but has a happy one at the end.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Harry surreptitiously picks a pair of handcuffs that bound his hands behind his back.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Simon can't stop himself from peeing during stressful situations.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    • Gib to Harry regarding Helen's affair:
      Gib: What'd you expect, Harry? Helen's a flesh-and-blood woman and you're never there. It was just a matter of time.
    • Exploited by Helen to see if the truth serum on Harry is working. He tells her to ask him something he'd normally lie about.
      Helen: Are we going to die?
      Harry: Yep.
      Helen: I'd say it's working.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield:
    • Averted. When Aziz walks into the 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 uses the Torture Technician as a human shield after threatening to do so but only to make the guard in the room hesitate from firing rather than absorb bullets.
  • Butt-Monkey: Gib has to improvise and play catch-up when Harry goes off-script. Repeatedly. He gets shot at by Aziz and miraculously survives by hiding behind a lamppost, gets kicked in the balls by Helen and his long history of failed marriages is played for laughs. He's finally had enough at the end of the movie:
    Gib: You know what? I'm sick of being in the van. You guys gotta be in the van next time. I've been in the van for fifteen goddamn years, Harry.
  • The Cameo: Charlton Heston as Omega Sector boss Spencer Trilby.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: After it appears that the hero Harry has been killed, terrorist leader Aziz stops his paid ally Juno from shooting Harry's wife Helen on the grounds that they may need a hostage.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: And, as Gib notes, can't kill them.
  • Cassandra Truth: Under the influence of truth serum, Harry tells the torturer exactly what he's going to do to him.
  • Cat Fight: Helen and Juno get into a pretty brutal version of this in the back of a runaway limo.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early in the film, Dana uses her skills at small-time theft to steal money from Gib's wallet. Later in the film shes uses those same skills to steal the detonation key for the nuclear warhead.
  • Combat Stilettos: Averted; Helen would rather take on terrorists barefoot than try it in heels.
  • Cool Plane: A Harrier jet is overused to amazing effect in the last action scene of the film.
  • Creator Cameo: Director James Cameron can be heard as the helicopter pilot who says "Oh yeah, she's got her head in his lap. Yahoo."
  • Da Chief: Spencer Trilby, head of Omega Sector played by Charlton Heston. Heston asked James Cameron why he cast him and his answer was "I need someone who can plausibly intimidate Arnold Schwarzenegger."
  • Damsel out of Distress:
    • Helen, for the entire movie, just shy of being an Action Girl. The first and biggest example? During the initial raid, while Simon is pleading and crying, she almost gets away from the trained operatives twice, by a well-placed knee to Gib's groin and biting Harry. Then, she almost spoils the following interrogation by breaking the glass with her stool. Later, she beats Harry to near-unconsciousness with a telephone, almost knocks him out later, and almost turns her Designated Girl Fight into a Curb-Stomp Battle with a champagne bottle.
    • It also seems to run in the family. Dana, her daughter, when faced with the entire rogue faction, not only manages to get away, she also swipes the nuke ignition key, and keeps it for the entire climax.
  • Deadfoot Leadfoot: The limo driver hits the gas permanently after getting shot in the head during Helen and Juno's fight on the bridge.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: During the bathroom fight, Harry shoots one of Aziz's mooks several times in the chest in the middle of wrestling with the other one for control of the gun. The shot mook spastically lets off a burst from his submachine gun that goes nowhere important.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone.
    • Harry has plenty of snark to throw at his teammates and the situations he is in.
      Harry: I'm just trying to get a better look at Beavis and Butthead over there.
    • Gib uses this to deal with Harry's antics.
      Gib: Care to tango?
      Faisil: Why, yes. Yes I would!
      [Gib and Faisil proceed to tango dramatically with vacant stares in the middle of their agency office.]
      Harry: Assholes.
    • Even the geeky Faisil has comments for his boss.
      Faisil: They call [Aziz] "the Sand Spider".
      Chief: Why?
      Faisil: [completely straight faced] Probably because it sounds scary.
  • Death Glare: In addition to the Kubrick Stares listed below, the car salesman gets this when Harry bursts into his hideaway and sees him apparently shtupping Helen. It's even more effective for Harry being in a ski mask, since the viewers can just see his gritted teeth and staring eyes.
  • Description Porn: Harry's description of the Soviet MIRV-6 is very technical and detailed.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Harry never fights Juno himself. That's for Helen to do.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: Harry and Helen make out to the backdrop of a nuclear explosion. And it is awesome.
  • Dirty Harriet: Helen's first assignment as a "spy" is to pose as a high-class prostitute and meet with a suspected arms dealer who is actually Harry.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Helen is "arrested" by what is actually Harry's squad for cheating on Harry with Simon, she's given a choice: Work for Harry's "agency", or:
    Harry: You will go to a federal prison. And your husband and daughter will be left humiliated and alone. Your life will be destroyed.
    Helen: [sarcastic] Oh gee, lemme think.
    Harry: Yes, or no?
    Helen: Of course, yes.
  • Dive Under the Explosion: Harry dives underwater to avoid getting burned by a gas explosion.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Harry telling how he'll kill everyone in the Breaking the Bonds scene.
  • Dramatic Drop: Inverted, as it's Played for Laughs: Helen, in her guide as substitute prostitute, sexy dances at the request of the guy Harry is pretending to be. He gets so engrossed and turned on watching her that he drops the tape recorder he's been using to feed her commands.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Harry smashes his van window when Gib refuses to give him the tenth page of the transcripts between Helen and Simon. The window was supposed to be stage glass but Arnold hit the wrong one by mistake; Tom Arnold's reaction isn't completely acted.
  • End of an Age: True Lies was one of the last of the 80s/early 90s-style action movies. It might even be considered an Affectionate Parody of the genre. Starting in the late 1990s, action movies began to get more serious and gritty, with heroes who looked like average guys instead of bodybuilders and storylines that were more grounded in realism.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Behind the Big Bad, outside the skyscraper's windows, Harry rises piloting a Harrier jet.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Even snowmobiles make awesome explosions.
  • Evil Pays Better: Juno Skinner is Only in It for the Money:
    Harry: Now why are you helping these raving psychotics?
    Juno: Because they're very well-funded raving psychotics.
  • Evil Is Petty: After Juno taunts Helen about her husband Harry's likely death, Helen slaps her in the face, which leaves a scratch mark. Juno's response is to try to shoot her, but she's stopped by Aziz.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: At the end when Helen has become a spy too, her short hair has grown out long.
  • Expy: The director of the Omega Sector, Spencer Trilby (Charlton Heston), was based upon Marvel Comics character Nick Fury. Both have eye patches, they have similar personalities, and both are leaders of an elite spy agency.
  • Eyepatch of Power: It is automatically clear that Spencer Trilby (Charlton Heston) 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 to make it clear whatever's under his eyepatch must be very scary.
  • Fanservice Pack: When Helen 'goes undercover' as a prostitute named Michelle. She arrives at the hotel wearing a rather modest dress. Through some Rip Tailoring she makes it sexier, pushes up her boobs and slicks her hair back with water. And of course her glasses go.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: The Terrorists' celebration when they are arming the nuke, which handily covers up the actual gun battle Harry's engaged in.
  • 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.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: Harry improvises a flamethrower out of a fuel truck, but his nemesis shoots the fuel truck... with a rocket propelled grenade.
  • Follow the Chaos: When Gib sees the smoking ruins of the island compound where Harry was being held, he comments to the latter:
    Gib: I thought this looked like your work.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: True Lies: The Pretender in France.
  • A Glass in the Hand: While watching Simon, the slimy used car salesman, Harry grips the binoculars hard enough to break a lens. Bear in mind that the binocular lens had a durable plastic housing around them as well.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Harry works for the Omega Sector, an elite intelligence/counter-terrorist agency whose very existence is kept secret from the public.
  • Gratuitous French: An allied French agent doing Harry's weapons dealer voice over is not impressed by the script he was given.
    French-accented agent: Who wrote this shit? Harry? C'est de la merde!
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Helen's fight with Juno ends with Helen braining her a couple times using a wine bottle. Surprisingly, the bottle holds up.
  • 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.
    • Helen also pulls one off in the kidnapping sequence. On Gib.
  • Gunship Rescue: Harry in the hover-capable Harrier fighter.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation:
    • Harry tries to stop Dana, whom he caught stealing cash from his wallet, as she runs off with a boyfriend. She completely ignores him as "Sunshine of Your Love" is blaring on her headphones... and, y'know, because she didn't want to be stopped and caught.
    • The music-loving janitor is unaware of the conflict outside until the jet crashes through the window.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Hero stole my horse! That is, Harry steals a DC police horse from an officer while pursuing Aziz on foot.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Harry gets one when he finds out that his wife is having an affair with a used car salesman.
  • Hidden Weapons: Agent Faisil poses as a reporter to infiltrate the Crimson Jihad after they have taken over a building and kills several of them with a H&K P7M8 pistol hidden in his video camera.
  • 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: Subverted when the horse balks at the edge and pitches Harry over the saddle.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Every insult Juno hurls at Helen would be more appropriate if used against Juno herself. Apart from the "Suzy Homemaker" quip.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Harry knows how dirty they usually play things and uses it to get around objections.
    Harry: Put a tap on her phone.
    Gib: What? I already did that.
    Harry: I'm talking about Helen's. Put a tap on her office line and the house. Now.
    Gib: Come over here for a second. That sounds great. I want to ask you about something. I got two words to describe that idea: In-sane. An unauthorized wiretap's a felony. You know that.
    Harry: [pushes him against a wall] And you're doing it twenty times a day! ...so don't give me that crap. Do it.
  • Idiot Ball: Harry grabs it by using his "Harry Rhenquist" I.D. at the hotel where he'd planned his romantic interlude with Helen... which allows Juno and her terrorist buddies to track Harry down and capture him and his wife. If he'd just used a new fake I.D. and credit card, they'd never have found him.
  • I Have Your Daughter: It's revealed that Dana is being held prisoner in the film's third act.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Helen, feeling unappreciated by Harry and trapped in a mundane lifestyle, longs for something exciting to happen in her life, which draws Simon to her as he's learned to exploit this need in married women. She gets her wish by becoming a spy at the end.
  • Impairment Shot:
    • When Harry and Helen are captured, they're both drugged. Harry lasts five seconds longer and we get a POV shot of his view going blurry and dark.
    • While in the clutches of the terrorists, Harry looks up at the torture specialist. We see him all blurry, but Harry has mostly shaken off the sodium pentothal.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Played for laughs when the fat Gib hides behind a lamp post while being shot at with an AK-47, and remains unharmed, despite the pole and everything behind him being hit repeatedly. Even he can't believe it.note 
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Harry has several instances of this with a regular pistol including shooting a pair of skiing mooks while he was sliding down a snowy hill on his back.
  • Indecisive Parody: The movie is either a 90's action comedy, or a parody thereof.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Tasker imagines smashing in Simon's face while Simon describes his most recent lay (Harry's wife).
  • 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.
    • Of course, the shockwave from a nuclear weapon travels much faster than the speed of sound.
  • 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.
    • A particularly grievous case of Artistic License Physics — putting aside the technical shortcomings of the AV-8B "Harrier II", shown in the film, any V/STOL jet aircraft that hovered for as long as the film's climax would probably have burst into flames from overheating.
  • Karmic Death: Juno gets hers when the limo falls off the recently destroyed bridge after the scuffle between her and Helen.
  • Kill It with Fire: Harry turns a fuel truck into a flamethrower by shooting the end of the hose.
  • Kubrick Stare:
  • Large Ham: Art Malik's portrayal of Aziz is (perhaps deliberately) over-the-top.
  • The Last Straw: A teetering car goes over the edge thanks to a bird landing on the hood.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Averted with Helen when she fires a burst from a MAC-10, is forced to stagger backwards and ultimately drops the weapon to surprisingly useful effect.
  • Lethal Klutz: Played for laughs when Helen accidentally kills a group of terrorists while trying to fire a MAC-10 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Faisil, the geeky junior agent, gets to have a moment of true bad-assery. Faisil is skinny, inexperienced, geeky, and absolutely the type of character who usually ends up a Sacrificial Lamb. He ends up taking out three of the terrorists by himself in a smooth bit of gunplay that ends with him blowing across the end of his gun, James Bond style after walking into the terrorist's den disguised as a TV cameraman.
  • Lighter and Softer: True Lies is just as violent, but a lot less dark compared to the last collaboration between Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, having a stronger emphasis on being plain popcorn-munching fun and self-aware humor.
  • Lip-Lock Sun-Block: Harry blocks out the flash from a nuclear blast on his profile with his hand while making out with his wife.
  • 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, making the dress fit properly.
  • Masquerade: Harry needs to maintain this to protect his spy agency and himself in the name of national security.
  • 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.
  • Mating Dance: The tango scenes, which was actually an attempt by Harry to evade the bad guys despite his flirtatious banter with Juno (because they couldn't shoot him in a room full of people). Harry's partner puts it quite succinctly after he's done dancing with her that she's ready to have his kids.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: The Crimson Jihad group. Notably, they predate the War on Terror time period.
  • 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, Gib, is eventually fed up with this role.
    Gib: Y'know what? I'm sick of being the one in the van. You guys are gonna be in the van next time.
  • Modeling Poses: Helen does a pose to make sure her outfit looks sexy enough after altering it.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a light 7, due to scenes like the one where the villainous limo driver receives a headshot during the bridge chase where the bullet passes through his head and breaks the glass of the windshield in front of him.
  • Mood Whiplash: One of the best comedic moments in the scene occurs when Aziz's villainous threat recording is interrupted due to technical difficulties.
    [Mook shakily lowers his dead camcorder]
    [Aziz gestures in exasperation as his speech is ruined]
    Mook: Battery, Aziz!
    [Aziz closes in on the mook]
    Aziz: Then get another one, you moron!
    Mook: I think I have another one, in the truck.
    [Aziz shushes the mook, barely containing his anger]
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Crimson Jihad.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Crimson Jihad is a terrorist group that is considered vicious and brutal even by Islamic terrorist standards.
    Faisil: Now he's formed his own splinter faction called Crimson Jihad.
    Gib: Yeah, I guess he thought the other terrorist groups were a little too warm and fuzzy for his tastes.
  • Neck Snap: Harry goes to town on the jihadis with this.
  • Never-Forgotten Skill: Double Subverted and Played for Laughs. When Gib says Harry can fly a Harrier jump-jet, despite reportedly not having touched one for ten years. For extra points, he says this to the actual pilot of the Harrier. Harry has some trouble at first, crushing the roof of a police car with his nose gear ("Sorry!") and sending the onlookers scrambling for cover with his thrusters, then gets the hang of it and heads off for Miami.
    Harry: If I break it, they can take it out of my pay.
  • Noodle Incident: When Gib is trying to convince Harry not to pull agents off routine surveillance to follow Helen and Simon.
    Harry: You tell on me, I tell on you.
    Gib: Whatya talking? I'm as clean as a preacher's sheets, babe. Clean as a—
    Harry: What about that time you trashed a six-week operation because you were busy getting a blowjob?
    Gib: You know about that?
    [Harry quietly guffaws. Beat.]
    Gib: Okay, let's take Franklin. It's a lot quicker.
  • Not So Above It All: Gib gleefully mocks Harry's anger over his wife's apparent infidelity, but ends up losing his temper during Helen's interrogation scene and has to be restrained by Harry.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Helen just wants some excitement and isn't really cheating, but Simon pulling Covert Pervert stunts like getting her to rest her head on his lap, ostensibly to avoid surveillance, aren't helping because they really are under surveillance by an Omega helicopter pilot who gleefully jumps to the wrong conclusion in relaying the scene to Harry.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Harry has to do this several times, but it borders on ridiculous when he calls a nuclear warhead an espresso machine, a snow-cone maker, and a water heater in succession just to keep his (obviously blown) cover in front of his wife. But it at least annoys his captor.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: The Janitor doesn't notice the jet flying around outside until it crashes into the window.
  • Offhand Backhand: Harry fantasizes about using this to kill Simon.
  • 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.
    • The Mook gets a wordless one when his view is obstructed by Harry who rises in front of him with a Harrier jet.
    • The look on Samir's face after Harry reveals that he's picked the lock on his handcuffs and is about to do everything he said he would.
    • 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 Florida: The bridge that gets blown up by the fighter jets is the original 7-Mile Bridge that linked the Florida Keys to the mainland. It was replaced by a newer bridge back in the 80s and had already been cut into pieces to allow sailing ships through-ways. Several sections of the old bridge are now used as fishing piers, and the rest are being allowed to fall apart to form artificial reefs.
  • Only in It for the Money: Juno Skinner is only aiding the terrorists in exchange for an enormous amount of money. This includes enduring slaps to the face.
  • Papa Wolf: When his little girl is kidnapped, Harry borrows the aforementioned Harrier Jet to rescue her and face the Big Bad.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: When Aziz's men tranquilize Helen. "That hurt, you bi--" *clunk*
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Harry at least believes to only have killed people who deserved it.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Harry uses his teeth to pull a grenade's safety pin and throws it at the gas drums as the opening of a huge firefight at the enemy's hideout after escaping from being captured.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: It's a Schwarzenegger film, so it has a number of them, including one when shooting the Big Bad from a missile.
    Harry: You're fired!
  • Pretty in Mink: Several furs are worn in the background of a few scenes that take place at fancy galas and high class hotels.
  • Precision F-Strike: Helen almost melts down during her interrogation when asked why she was having an alleged affair.
    Helen: I was reckless and I was wild, and I fucking did it!
  • Product Placement: Canon camera with a gun in it. Part of a chase scene happens in a Marriott hotel. Also, when transiting back to Washington DC after the infiltration in Switzerland, the footage of the landing plane is of an American Airlines plane (the AA logo is not shown, but the fuselage stripes are a giveaway). American tickets are also featured in two scenes where Simon is using them as props (in his trailer & his briefcase).
  • Progressively Prettier: In the epilogue, Helen's mousy appearance has become more glamorous. She's no longer wearing glasses and her hair is longer. Presumably she's expected to be more glamorous as a spy.
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: The Crimson Jihad set off one of their nukes in the Florida Keys as a demonstration.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Helen attacks the one-way mirror that Harry and Gib are using during their interrogation of her with her stool.
    Helen: NO! I DID [slams glass] NOT [slam] SLEEP [slam] WITH HIM!!! [slam slam]
    Gib: I think maybe she's telling the truth.
  • Rated M for Manly: Arnold goes full manly action hero for the last hour of the film.
  • Red Baron: The terrorist leader Salim Abu Aziz is known as the "Sand Spider"
    Spencer Trilby: Why [is he called that]?
    Faisil: Probably because it sounds scary.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Helen attempts to use a MAC-10 machine pistol and promptly loses control of it and drops it down a flight of stairs, where it continues firing all by itself as it tumbles down, taking out nearly every mook in the terrorist camp. Also the Accidental Aiming Skills.
    • Also a case of Truth in Television, as the Mac-10 is known for occasionally going "runaway" when dropped. During making of the movie, the production team was even trying to find a way to get the gun to do exactly that. Their eventual solution? Just load it up and throw it down some stairs.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Crimson Jihad to a larger, unnamed terrorist group. Unlike other examples of the trope, the point here is to show that Aziz was even more fanatical than other fanatics:
    Gib: Guess he thought the other terrorist groups were too warm and fuzzy for his tastes.
  • Riding the Bomb: The villain, in quite a phallic manner, as the helicopter carrying it takes off for Miami. Later, he rides a missile.
  • Rip Tailoring: Helen rips off the frilly sleeves and collar of her dress, and shortens it considerably when preparing to unknowingly meet Harry, who's pretending to be a black market 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:
    • Gib checks himself over to make sure he is intact, including his groin, in about three seconds after using a lamppost for cover from an AK-47.
    • The runaway MAC-10 killing several mooks but leaving the heroes unharmed.
  • Running Gag: "Sorry!" Said by Harry after he does various things like steal a horse from a mounted police officer, ride said horse through a luxury hotel, and pancake a police car with the nose gear of a Harrier jet while taking off.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Harry gives a beat-for-beat explanation about how he is going to escape torture while under the influences of a truth serum.
  • 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 escapes.
  • Serial Escalation: Harry goes from mowing down a bunch of mooks in an escape sequence down a mountain on foot, to leading a chase sequence on horseback, eventually to take out the remaining terrorists in a hi-rise while flying a Harrier jet.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Harry's disguised voice identifies Helen's contact as "Boris" and starts to identify her, she pipes up, "Natasha?"
    • After Harry demonstrates his fighting chops to Helen, she blurts out, "My God, I married Rambo!" Arnold and Sylvester Stallone tease each other a lot in their movies.
    • Harry's 'tuxedo under a diving suit' method of infiltrating a party at the beginning of the film was done by Sean Connery's Bond at the beginning of Goldfinger.
  • Sinister Tango Music: Played with. Arnold's character has a weakness for the Tango and dances it with his sexy but evil target. At the end, he dances another with the wife he loves, inconveniencing their partner in the van.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Harry and Helen eventually reconcile after she finds out he is a spy.
  • 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?
    Samir: Mmm-hmm.
    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 a champagne bottle a couple of times and the bottle remains intact.
  • 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. Pointed out by a shocked Helen: "My God, I married Rambo!!"
  • 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: The Harrier jet is not something the terrorists prepared themselves for.
  • Tagline: "When he said 'I do', he never said what he did."
  • Take My Hand: How Harry plucks Helen out of the limo speeding off the edge of a blown bridge.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Or would do that, as it were. Twice, the tape Harry has recorded for Helen's "secret mission" anticipates she'll do something (unzipping her dress, dancing) awkwardly and corrects her, instructing her to do it in a more sexy way. Subverted when it says to slide her nylons off — she isn't wearing any. Harry has to hastily fast-forward a bit to get to the next part.
  • Teeny Weenie: When being interrogated by Harry and Gib, Simon confesses that he has to lie to women to get laid because he has a small penis.
  • Throwaway Guns: After the horseback chase, Harry ends up tossing away his sidearm off the top of the building to keep himself from plummeting off its side.
  • Triang Relations: Helen considers cheating on the overly-absent Harry and Harry hatches a Zany Scheme to find out about the affair and win her back.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The original trailer showed Jamie Lee Curtis in an interrogation chamber being grilled about her husband. Not shown: 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 we gonna die?
      Harry: Yep!
    • Also:
      Harry: First I'm gonna use you as a human shield, then I'm 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?
      Samir: Hmm?
      Harry: I picked them.
      [Samir gives shocked expression look and gasps in horror. Harry proceeds to do exactly what he had just said he would].
  • Try and Follow: Aziz jumps from one building to another in a motorcycle. Harry is completely willing to follow, his horse however refuses to do the same.
  • Two-Faced Aside: When the Marine jet pilots worry that their missiles might detonate the nukes, Harry assures them it will be fine. Then he turns to Gib and gives an "I hope" grimace.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: When Gib is driving Harry to Juno's office:
    Gib: All right, reality check. Let's go.
    Harry: Hi, my name is Harry Renquist. I own a corporate art consultant company [scene changes to Harry handing his business card to Juno's receptionist continuing the dialogue] in San Francisco and I have an appointment with Miss Skinner.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: An exasperated Gib breaks the word "insane" into two words:
    Gib: Okay, I've got two words for that: In. Sane.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: Harry, on a horse, trying to chase down the film's villain, on a motorcycle, through the streets of Washington, D.C., a mall, and a hotel.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted in Harry's escape from the Torture Technician. Harry says exactly what he is going to do.
  • 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 dancing carelessly puts head upside down off the edge of the bed.
  • Villainous Crush: After Harry does the tango with Juno at the start of the film, she gives him her card and stares longingly at him as he departs.
    Gib: Son of a bitch knows her for two minutes and she's ready to bear his children.
  • Wannabe Secret Agent: Played with.
    • Simon pretends to be a spy, but it's as much an act to impress women as it is his own fantasy. However, as befitting most non-protagonist examples of this trope, he gets his comeuppance when he blunders into the real thing.
    • Inverted with Helen, who is at first a reluctant participant in the spy game, but ultimately discovers she has a thirst for adventure. Unlike Simon, she evolves into the real thing by the end of the film.
  • Wedding Ring Removal:
    • Inverted just after the Action Prologue. Upon returning home after the mission to Switzerland, Gib has to remind Harry to put his wedding ring back on after he'd removed it for his cover ID.
    • Later, when Helen is playing a High-Class Call Girl and modifying her outfit into a Little Black Dress with Boyish Short Hair, she struggles to remove her wedding band so she can put it on a different finger as generic jewelry. This comes back after they escape from the Crimson Jihad.
      Harry: This is the wrong finger.
      [Harry replaces the ring and they have a Big Damn Kiss]
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Samir is prepared to torture Harry for information. Harry does talk... about how he will escape.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: When having a guy record romantic dialog for an apparent sting operation, the agent doing the voice asked who wrote it, and that it's la merde.
  • With This Ring: Helen's wedding set does some moving around.
    • First she moves it to the wrong hand because she's playing prostitute in the little scenario Harry set up for her.
    • Then she leaves it there on finding out Harry's been lying to her about being a spy.
    • When Harry makes up with his wife (saving her life will do that), he remarks the ring is on the wrong hand, and puts it back on her left hand.
  • Your Cheating Heart: This drives half the plot of the movie. Harry discovers that his wife has been having an affair behind his back, but it's a subversion. The guy she was "cheating" with is a loser who was pretending to be a spy to get Helen to sleep with him, but she never does. Nonetheless, Harry uses his spy agency's resources to bust her in the middle of meeting with the man he thinks she was cheating with, and recruits her (without disclosing his own identity) so she can have some excitement in her life.
  • Zany Scheme: Harry hatches quite a crazy plan to monitor and get the truth out of his wife about her potential affair.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TrueLies?from=Main.TrueLies