There's a hostage situation and one of Los Angeles' most notorious criminals, The Ripper (Tom Noonan) has taken a bunch of kids prisoner and has just thrown the cop sent to save them off the roof. Who can save them now? Surely not Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the maverick lawman approaching over the roofs of the patrol cars, punching out the lieutenant governor and heeding no warnings from his chief to turn around? But yes, and Slater reaches the roof to confront the bad guy, except that things don't go according to plan - for a start, the film is out of focus and little Danny (Austin O'Brien) has to go to the projection room to see what's up...
In 1993, it was unthinkable that Arnold Schwarzenegger would star in a flop; his last film had been Terminator 2, after all. But that summer, most people wanted to see Jurassic Park, and the mishmash that was Last Action Hero failed to find much of an audience. The main problem is that the Jack Slater movie is presumably designed to make you think, "Isn't that just what blockbusters are like?" when in fact it's nothing of the sort. What the question actually being posed is, "You weren't stupid enough to believe all this action movie baloney, were you?" If anything is being shot, it's the moviemakers shooting themselves in the foot.
Is it supposed to be serious? In the film within a film, Slater's son dies. But, then again, it has elements of spoof - how seriously would anyone take it if Jack Slater was a genuine film? It's difficult to believe it would reach its fourth instalment. So when Danny is given a magic movie ticket in real life by projectionist Robert Prosky, he enters the world of the movie and never shuts up about it to the characters, who don't see anything amiss about car chases where only the bad guys get hurt, or beautiful women as far as the eye can see. Yet when the real world is depicted, it's just the same as the movie world, except that Slater will occasionally hurt his hand or trip.
This is because inevitably Slater has to get into our world, something which happens when the ticket falls into the wrong hands. Those wrong hands belonging to Benedict, who is played by Charles Dance and a villain who needs a better movie, both in fiction and actuality. He enters the scuzzy New York of Danny's existence, and it turns out to be simply a variation on the action movie world in that criminals get away with it until someone with a huge gun comes along and puts a stop to them. Really, the film has quite a cheek when it comes to representing what they think we're dumb enough to accept in our big budget entertainment - so much for post-modernism.
And yet, despite its faults, somehow it remains interesting - there's always something going on, and at least it's ambitious. Schwarzenegger playing essentially a fake version of the characters he usually offers us is certainly arresting, even if the supposed sense of humour he puts on display doesn't convince completely, a little like the film's comedic aspects - it can't shake its blockbuster aspirations. Compare it to Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, which this could be a heavily-tweaked remake of, and you see this needs a better grasp of irony, and even subtlety that director John McTiernan does not feel confident with, never mind his cast and writers. Call it a one-off... they'll never try anything like this again, it's like being told your diet of fast food is bad for you - so try another burger. Watch for: "movie movie" cameos by stars like Sharon Stone, Tina Turner, Jean Claude Van Damme, even Ian McKellen as Death. Music by Michael Kamen.
American producer and director with a flair for action blockbusters. After self-written horror Nomads, he hit the big time with three successes: Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, but after two flops, Medicine Man and Last Action Hero, he returned to familiar territory in Die Hard With A Vengeance. Subsequent films include the troubled The 13th Warrior and two remakes, a fair attempt at The Thomas Crown Affair, and a disastrous one at Rollerball.