20 Years Later: True Lies (1994)

Review by:
Bill Clark

Reviewed by:
On July 15, 2014
Last modified:July 15, 2014


Writer/director James Cameron has made his fair share of groundbreaking, great movies, but pound for pound True Lies is his most flat-out entertaining.

True Lies (1994)

“It’s like riding a bike. You never forget, really!”

20 Years Ago

It pretty much goes without saying that True Lies encompasses just about everything a thirteen-year-old boy could want in a movie. It has a sense of humor, lots of cartoonishly over-the-top action scenes, and even a racy striptease because, well, it just feels like it. I knew at the time that it was an exercise in excess, and damned if I didn’t love every last second of it. Having it and Speed released in the same summer felt, and still feels, like an embarrassment of riches. It was a golden age of action films, and there was no better person to head it up than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

20 Years Later

Oh, this will be a fun one. Look no further than True Lies for a cinematic example of how much the world has changed in the past twenty years. I wholeheartedly believe that this film could never be made today. Ever. The plot: radical Islamist militants, in a group named Crimson Jihad, threaten to destroy a U.S. city each week until their demands are met. Sound vaguely familiar? Granted, the terrorists in True Lies are completely incompetent stooges, but this plot thread was certainly ahead of its time and would never fly in a major Hollywood blockbuster today. It’s kind of what makes the whole thing fun to revisit. That, and it’s still a kick-ass and immensely entertaining action extravaganza.

Writer/director James Cameron has made his fair share of groundbreaking, great movies, but pound for pound True Lies is his most flat-out entertaining. He wasn’t trying to break any new visual effects ground and instead opted to make a crowd-pleasing, energetic summer blockbuster. And boy does he succeed. True Lies still shows us things we had never seen before (a human attached to a rocket being shot out of a Harrier, for instance), but the script is so witty and hilarious that it almost upstages the onscreen action. Pretty much anything Tom Arnold, who carries entire sections of this movie, says is hilarious and we even get dialogue like this:

“They call him the sand spider.”
“Probably because it sounds scary.”

Hell, that line could be from The Naked Gun.

Hugely underrated is Bill Paxton as the sleazy used-car salesman that Arnold believes his wife is cheating on him with. He is a true BS artist and is given one of the film’s best scenes as he and Arnold drive around under the notion that Arnold is interested in buying a car. The scene in which he is exposed as a fraud is just as memorable (“I have to lie to women to get laid. Even then I don’t score much. I got a little dick, it’s pathetic!”)

If True Lies falters at any point, it is in the extended central sequence in which Arnold gets a hotel room so, in the strangest way possible, he can prove to his wife he loves her. This features the infamous Jamie Lee Curtis bed post/pole dancing scene. As an adult, this whole sequence plays as pretty long (what, Cameron is not known for brevity?) and tedious. Plus, it’s beyond ridiculous to think she wouldn’t know it was Arnold watching her, dark room or not. But, it does set up the explosive escape from terrorist captivity, the still-impressive bridge detonation sequence, and, of course, this:

No 25 second clip can better dictate whether you’re going to like a movie than that. True Lies is still a hell of a fun ride. But this question still remains: where is the Blu-Ray release? Against all logic, the only release on disc of this film is a piddly non-anamorphic DVD that was released in 1999! Unacceptable. True Lies deserves full HD treatment so future generations can look back upon a golden age of action movies in their full glory. It was a fun time when movies could be self-aware, have terrorists as villains without the PC police getting involved, and entertain you with cartoony violence punctuated by witty dialogue and one-liners. Nope, True Lies could never be made today.




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