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A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: The 25th Anniversary – True Lies

A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “Make It Quick Because My Horse Is Getting Tired”. A 25th Anniversary Appreciation Of James Cameron’s Grandiose Old Fashioned Actioner. A True Testament Of James Cameron At The Top Of His Game As He Shows That No One Can Do It Better. Injecting Freshness & Bringing His Own Brand Of Action & Humor To His Classic “True Lies”. 

Long ago a young Aussie kid named Arnold Schwarzenegger dreamt about playing a James Bond kind of spy in the movies. While Schwarzenegger had established himself as one of Hollywood’s greatest action stars, he never made it to becoming chosen for the role of 007. While Pierce Brosnan (the best Bond) got the job, for any of those who wondered what a muscle-bound Austrian 007 might be like, just take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron’s “True Lies”. Instead of Bond, the name’s Tasker. Harry Tasker.

It’s up to you to decide whether “True Lies” works better as a comedy or action film. The screenplay by James Cameron contains heavy elements of both, and honestly Cameron plays them both with perfection equally. Writer and Director James Cameron has made his fair share of great films, his best being “Titanic”, “Aliens” and “Terminator 2”. Cameron himself is one of cinema’s groundbreaking artists. Within his career, pound for pound “True Lies” is his most flat-out entertaining film. 

“True Lies” is a big, grandiose movie, loaded with action and comedy for it’s 2 hour and 24 minute running time. Cameron has an immense amount of fun while never taking his film too seriously. It’s one of those films that you just don’t have any complaints about. James Cameron has proven himself to be a master of action and suspense as “Titanic”, “The Terminator”, “Terminator 2” and “Aliens” speak volumes about his talent. 

“True Lies” had reaffirmed his ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but was also capable of making an audience laugh. One of the best things about “True Lies” is how genuinely funny it is, to think it’s Cameron’s first time writing comedy. Cameron had originally hired a team of writers to help come up with the film’s jokes. After being mostly unsatisfied with their work, Cameron let them go and decided to try his own hand at writing comedy. He rewrote the script from scratch and kept only two jokes from the team of writers, one of which being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “You’re fired!” line. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger who had worked with James Cameron twice before in “Terminator” and “T2”, had came to James Cameron with the idea for “True Lies”. Schwarzenegger had watched a French film entitled “La Totale!” from 1991, about a secret agent, whose wife thinks he is a telecommunications employee. Cameron and Arnold collaborated and decided to remake the film as “True Lies” with Arnold in the lead role of secret agent Harry Tasker.

Arnold signed on to make “True Lies”, before he made 1993’s big budget flop “Last Action Hero”. The delay in “True Lies” was due to James Cameron being busy writing 1995’s “Strange Days” for his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow (“Point Break”). “True Lies” was the first Lightstorm Entertainment project to be distributed under James Cameron’s multimillion-dollar production deal with 20th Century Fox, as well as the first major production for the visual effects company Digital Domain, which was co-founded by Cameron. It would be one of the last first-run films to have a 70mm film release. Cameron had personally paid for 16 70mm prints of the film to be used for filming. 

Being partly inspired by the spy tv series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, while the storyline might not be all that inventive, it does contain it’s fair share of original moments. Schwarzenegger is Harry Tasker, a man who leads a double life. At home, with his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter Dana (Eliza Dushku), he’s a loving, if somewhat meek, husband and father. When he goes off to work, he doesn’t travel to the sales office where Helen thinks he has a desk job. 

Instead, he joins up with his partner Albert Gibson (Tom Arnold) and the Secret government agency they work for. That includes romancing the beautiful but deadly Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere) and squaring off against terrorist Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik). Cameron spends time examining the duplicitous relationship between Harry and Helen. When he suspects her of having an affair with a gregariously sleazy used-car salesman (Bill Paxton) who dresses like a ’70s disco hound and seduces women by pretending to yep be a spy, and the results are hilarious. 

Joining Arnold Schwarzenegger in the cast is Jamie Lee Curtis, who has called the film “without question, the greatest experience of my professional life”. Her role won her a Golden Globe for best actress. Before Curtis was signed on Jodie Foster, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Annette Bening, Joan Cusack, Geena Davis, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sharon Stone, Emma Thompson, Lea Thompson, Debra Winger, Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Claudia Wells, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Sandra Bullock and Madeleine Stowe were on the list of considered actresses. 

Tom Arnold is probably not many people’s ideal choice to play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s partner. But in fact, he plays Gib as a comedic relief and his wisecracks works. Had this been a serious film, he would have been out-of-place, but amidst all the comedy he fits right at home. Comic relief is his job, and he does it admirably. Considered actors Dan Aykroyd, Joe Pesci, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Steve Guttenberg were considered for the part before Tom Arnold. 

Tom Arnold has an everyman quality about him, and an ability to deliver an irreverent aside. When he gives advice on divorce and marriage, which he frequently does, he sounds as if he speaks from experience. Which he actually is. In a scene when Harry tells Gib that Helen is having an affair, Gib tells a story about his second wife taking everything when she left him. He says, “What kind of sick bitch takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?” This was an actual reference to Tom Arnold’s divorce from Roseanne Barr, as she was reported to have taken his ice cube trays when she left him.

Cameron’s film has a lot going on and one of the films most famous scenes is one that leads to an elaborate charade in a hotel room. For reasons that are much too complicated to summarize here, Jamie Lee Curtis impersonates a hooker as Schwarzenegger impersonates her client. Jamie Lee Curtis who gives the most crowd-pleasing dance of freedom since Tom Cruise partied in his underwear in “Risky Business”.

Curtis was originally to go nude in the striptease scene, but the idea was dropped, and instead kept her lingerie on which were personally owned by Curtis. Not only is Curtis extremely sexy but she manages to earn some laughs here with effective physical humor, and she is charmingly sexy and klutzy. Although the fall that she takes in the middle of the dance was unscripted, and that is hinted at further when Schwarzenegger sits up in alarm, then relaxes. While she was dancing Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t supposed to drop the tape recorder, but James Cameron liked it and kept it in.

When the film was released, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee was one of several groups to hold a protest at a Washington, D.C., theater. The groups attacked the film for its “depiction of Middle Easterners as homicidal, religious zealots”. A demand for the boycott of the movie was called, as well as a ban of its distribution in fifty-four Arab and Muslim countries.

James Cameron responded to the backlash stating that he was only looking for “generic terrorists; I almost used Irish terrorists as the bad guys”. The idea to make them Irish was dropped when information about the film “Blown Away” with Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges came out as Jones plays an Irish terrorist and Cameron did not want another 1994 film to echo his plans for “True Lies”. Cameron ultimately included an entry near the end credits which stated that none of the characters in his movie were meant to be represenative of any real racial, religious, ethnic or social groups.

A sequel to “True Lies” was once in the works, which would’ve reunited the principal cast as well as having been directed by James Cameron. A script was even ready for the sequel had the movie been made, it would’ve been released sometime in 2002. The sequel was scrapped due to script problems as well the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Cameron said in an interview that he dropped his sequel plans because “in this day and age, terrorism just isn’t funny anymore”.

Holding a record in the Guinness Book of World Records, “True Lies” is the first movie to have a production budget of $1 million. “True Lies” came in at #1 in its opening weekend, becoming a box-office success, earning $378 million worldwide, making it third best-grossing movie of 1994. 

“True Lies” was released on VHS and Laserdisc after its theatrical release, and on DVD on May 25, 1999. In 2018 James Cameron stated a new transfer for Blu-ray has been completed but he has not found time to review it. With much demand from fans, it has not yet found it’s way onto Blu Ray. 

“True Lies” is pure enjoyment. It is an old-fashioned actioner and you’ll have a lot of fun with this one. It relies instead on its own brand of mayhem and humor, as Cameron injects a freshness into a genre that can always be cliche ridden. 

There is a sequence near the end in which Schwarzenegger is piloting a Harrier vertical-takeoff fighter plane, which hovers near a high-rise while his teenage daughter clings precariously to the cockpit cover and the films villain dangles by his gunbelt from one of the wing mounted missiles. Arnold arms the missile and says “You’re Fired” as he fires the missile with the terrorist attached. It goes straight through the high-rise, and it shoots down a helicopter carrying the other terrorists.

It’s stuff like that to why we go to Schwarzenegger movies for, and “True Lies” has a lot of it. Mixed with laugh-out-loud moments and action scenes that leave us amazed at its inventiveness. Schwarzenegger has found himself in a lot of unlikely situations in his action-packed career, and “True Lies” is determined to raise the ante and to go over the top with it’s extravagant action pieces and special effects. 

Schwarzenegger has rediscovered his charm that humanizes him beneath his muscular physique. The way he gazes at Jamie Lee Curtis with such avid affection that, in the climax when he reaches down from a speeding helicopter to grab her hand, you can see the bond between them that makes the scene crackle, and not just for thriller logistics. James Cameron, is a master of action and when he’s doing his thing, he is on top of his game and no one does it better. That’s the best way to describe “True Lies” as Cameron at the top of his game and their will be a film that no one could have done it better. 

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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