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True Lies (1994)

by on 2013/08/08

True-Lies“Women – can’t live with them, can’t kill them.”

* * *

Wow, I really don’t know where to begin here.

True Lies as a spy thriller is to the James Bond franchise as Spam is to pork tenderloinTrue Lies has all the cultural sensitivity of Team America? (Durka durk?) True Lies demonstrates the same quiet dignity and respect for women as Bikini Spring Break Jello Wrestling? (No, make that Bikini Spring Break Cake Mix Wrestling).

This month I take on the films of Kapuskasing, Ontario’s pride and joy, James Cameron. Mr. Cameron has created many things that I love. I loved this movie when it came out. Loved it. I think loads of other people did too.

But it was a different time. Clearly.

Ah, the early 90s. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been cranking out comedies at an alarming rate. Jamie Lee Curtis was a sex symbol and it would be many years before she would be totally wrong about Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance. (It was great, Jamie. Great).

Last but not least, Tom Arnold was a major celebrity back then. Box office, baby. No, no, listen, it was true.

I remember True Lies being a hilarious, James Bond-alike, slick action blockbuster. People raved about it.

This more recent viewing… well, let’s just say you can’t go home again.

I’m going to start by blaming Hacker Render’s superlative television. In the cruel, unforgiving light of a huge screen, one couldn’t help but notice it wasn’t Arnie doing many (any) of his own stunts. The stunt guy or guys got more screen time than most of the supporting characters.

We yelled out the various people the stunt guy(s) looked like, “Greg Kinnear!” “A Baldwin brother!” and my contribution “Martin Sheen!” …all with a badly glued on Arnie wig. The stunt guy practically looked at the camera doing the horseback riding sequences. And this was a James Cameron movie – Mr. Relentless Attention To Detail. Here, not so much.

The special effects aren’t the only things that come off a tad dated.

According to my content analysis, women are referred to as bitches four times.  Well, three and a half times to be exact. Jamie Lee Curtis almost says it before she’s tranked, while wearing next to nothing. Women are also variously referred to as Suzy Homemaker, hooker, pussy and dog.

There’s also lines like these,  “the ‘vette gets them wet” in reference to women’s apparent affection to Covettes. That a housewife is a bit like “dying plant, just needs needs some water” and finally, the reference to Ms. Curtis’ physique:  “Titties that make you want to beg for buttermilk.” All lines uttered by sleazy but effective Bill Paxton (Near Dark).

With dialogue that was disappointing to mothers everywhere, all the additional levity created by capering and slapslip during the spy missions was really undercut by all the arterial spray. Something about oozing head wounds really subtracts from the funny.

And let’s not forget how the citizens from any/all Middle Eastern country come off in this film. Art Malik doesn’t have much to work with here, but he does his best as Salim, the woman-slapping, child-torturing leader of the Crimson Jihad. Unfortunately Salim is so evilly one-dimensional that it was almost silly. Poor Art Malik.

Even one of my favourites Eliza Dushku (Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse) as Arnie’s Juvenile delinquent daughter comes off unsympathetic in this tale of a secret agent who poses as a dull office drone to his family.

There is one thing about this movie that is uniformly great and that’s Tom Arnold’s performance as the best friend and handler, Albert Gibson, to Arnie’s character, Harry Tasker. This was Tom Arnold’s finest hour and really, it makes complete sense (all over again) that the guy was a big deal in the 90s. No, really, it was true.

The 90s, I don’t miss them whatsoever. And True Lies was very much of its time.

In this case, the dream of the 90s is not alive (in Portland or anywhere).

* * *

141 minutes

Rated 14A

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