Last Action Hero Blu-ray Review

Not Really the Last

Last Action Hero’s message is a modest one: What movie action doesn’t work in real life. Where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Jack Slater painlessly smashes windows in the film world, that same punch leads to pained knuckles in real world New York.

Consider the political climate of the period: Out of the ‘80s with politicians questioning the rise in screen death counts – partly the fault of Schwarzenegger himself – Last Action Hero is aiming to take down tropes, while simultaneously using their fantasy to do so. Last Action Hero is a smarter movie than it’s often credited for. Few if any movies of the ‘80s were willing to look down on sexist tropes. Here in Last Action Hero, women cops wear outrageous leather with little coverage. Even the kid (Austin O’Brien) realizes the absurdity.

Oddly, although O’Brien laughs at ludicrously clothed extras, he’s still drawn to violence. Sitting in class watching a screen version of Hamlet, he wishes for everyone to shut up and get to the killing. Drawn into Schwarzenegger’s send-up Jack Slater IV, he never contemplates the death toll. Entire cars full of bad guys go up in flames. Slater himself doesn’t make for much of a role model, celebrating the coolness of guns and multiple times letting O’Brien use one. Much as Last Hero Action mocks the genre (and Schwarzenegger’s own output) it appears blind to the criticisms.

Much as Last Hero Action mocks the genre it appears blind to the criticisms

What Last Action Hero does do is understand the draw of these movies. O’Brien’s real world is rundown. He’s in a low income burrow of New York, crammed in a small apartment, attending a school where teachers fail to notice kids walking into class four hours late, and the local theater spraypainted “Restroom” on the walls. Movies for O’Brien and kids like him act as their outlet and their escape. There’s admiration for film and their ability, for two hours, to block out a grungy reality. The old projectionist speaks of Bergman and Monroe. Bogart shows up in the police station. Some of the music hints at other action movies. Whether the target audience absorbs that over the explosions is certainly questionable.

Key is the affixed PG-13 rating, action-y enough to keep things lively, sedate enough to lessen bloodshed. Some of the humor aims for the young teen market too; a fart bubble in Los Angeles’ tar pits is appropriately aimed (and hilarious). That same sequence is Last Action Hero at its best, not for the gas gag, but Schwarzenegger drying himself off after swimming in tar, with his daughter driving a monster truck onto the scene to give him new clothes. That wild unreality is what Last Action Hero needed more of. Those shoot-outs and car chases too often fail to bring that level of asinine scenery, muddying the purpose and point of injecting a pre-teen into the surroundings.

Video

Mill Creek re-issues Last Action Hero onto Blu-ray, this time with a fancy VHS-style slipcover. To their credit, this is A-class packaging and wholly convincing at a quick glance.

That said, this transfer wants to match the nostalgic tape format. A relative mess with chunky grain and sour resolution, most of the fidelity in the source is lost. Ignore the early digital effects (those lower the color depth to around six total colors). Last Action Hero is clearly overdue for modern scanning,

But a handful of close-ups deliver anything of value. Exteriors look soft. Overly compressed grain slings artifacts across the print. Fidelity here is egregiously low, and the print used shows signs of age. Specks and dirt pop onto the screen regularly.

In general, high saturation helps. Last Action Hero produces great primaries and natural flesh tones. Skylines show great blues and warm interiors nicely use orange as a buffer. Overall contrast stays high, and although black levels add needed density, it’s not enough to cover the messy grain structure.

Audio

Despite being a high-end action film, the choice here is only Dolby Digital and it’s a dud. Way out of balance with low dialog and exaggerated surround effects, lines end up being lost in the fray. Fidelity doesn’t endure any signs of aging at least.

The core issue is the overactive rear soundstage, at times bloated as to make Last Action Hero sound as if it’s playing in a tunnel. Lack of precision sends bullets through the soundfield with little direction. Truly discrete effects barely make their way into the mix. Some women wearing squeaky leather come on screen from the left side, the clothing making the noise in the left rear, then making a slow, inadequate transition to the fronts. It’s as if the rear doesn’t stop producing sound even as the women move forward, a great example of where this track goes wrong.

Low-end support produces a punch, but a loose one. The lack of tightness makes the rumble stubborn and flat.

Extras

There’s a reason Last Action boots directly to the movie: Mill Creek doesn’t want to show the empty menu with only a single option to play feature.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Last Action Hero
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  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

Arnold Schwarzenegger produced the action genre send-up Last Action Hero, and it’s ultimately too messy and unsure of itself to work.

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