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TRUE LIES

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere
Director: James Cameron
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 140 Minutes
Release Date: May 25, 1999

Film ***1/2

Say what you will about James Cameron-it may be intellectually chic to be critical of him these days-but the man knows how to entertain an audience. As one of our greatest and most creative action directors, he always delivers the goods, and moviegoers have thrilled to his unique and exciting visions on the screen. True Lies is arguably his action masterpiece.

The film's action sequences are fast, loud, over the top, and come at you in rapid fire succession with one topper after another. They sometimes border on ridiculous, but they are so imaginative, so well-conceived, that your only reaction will be breathless delight.

Schwarzenegger plays Harry Tasker, a spy with enough muscle, skill, charm and wit to make James Bond envious. He speaks many languages, he can dance the tango and fight with equal prowess, and he knows many, many ways to take care of terrorists. He can also ride a horse as easy as he can fly a Harrier jet. He is the ultimate at what he does.

As an ironic counter-balance, Harry turns out to be as much of a failure in his home life as he is a success in his professional life. He's never told his long suffering wife (Curtis) the truth about what he does for a living. She thinks he's a boring computer salesman. She seems unsatisfied with her life. His daughter is stealing money from them and riding with some hoodlum on a motorcycle. Harry realizes he doesn't know much about what's going on in with his family anymore. He's never there. Lest I lead you into thinking this is all too serious for an action movie, I should point out that as soon as Harry thinks his wife is having an affair with a used car salesman posing as a spy (Paxton), the fun is just beginning.

But this duality of Harry's life serves not only to add some humor to the film (and a chance for Curtis to do a sexy dance in her underwear--yow!!), but to bring an element of humanity to what would ordinarily be just another cartoonish action hero-spy character. And Arnold handles the comedy as well as the action.

A nice surprise is the addition of the other Arnold, Tom, to the cast. He is funny and amazingly good in his role as Harry's ever faithful partner.

As mentioned, the action is fast and furious throughout, with a terrifically over the top climax, that builds with one great stunt after another. It's so well done, so thrilling, you'll never stop to ask why is it in all of these movies that a lone good guy with a revolver can take out a whole team of bad guys with machine guns. It's just too much of a good time. Don't be surprised if you feel like you need a nap by the time it's all over, and don't be surprised if you wake up from that nap eager to experience the Arnolds (Schwarzenegger and Tom) taking on the world again.

Video ***1/2

This is not anamorphic, but it's a mostly good THX certified transfer from Fox. Colors are always good, naturally rendered with no bleeding, and images throughout are sharp and clean, with just a little bit of noticeable grain in the darker sequences.

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack is awesome, though, packing quite a dynamic punch and adding an extra dimension of energy to the many action scenes. There are plenty of crossovers and discretion to all channels, even to the tune of separating the orchestration of the score so that certain instruments sometimes emanate from specific speakers.  The subwoofer gets plenty of work, too, adding the bottom end to the many explosive sequences.  Turn it up and get ready to rock!

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

James Cameron is the best American action director for my money, and I would offer True Lies as Exhibit A in my evidence to support that conclusion. It's big, it's loud, it's got Arnold, and it's explosively entertaining. What more could you hope for from your summer movie going fare?