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True Lies Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

If James Cameron ever got his hands on the 007 franchise, the result would almost certainly look and feel a lot like True Lies. It’s a very solid action film that never takes itself too seriously, but there were some elements that didn’t totally work. Besides being overlong, I thought one of the film’s plot strands was uncomfortable and created some out-of-character behavior. But I’ve seen a few too many mediocre action comedies recently, like Knight and Day and The A-Team, and when put up against those films, Cameron’s effort is inspired, energetic, and quite entertaining.

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads the ultimate double life. By day, he saves the world, working with his partner, Albert (Tom Arnold), for the Omega Sector, a top-secret terrorist-fighting government agency. Off the clock, he moonlights as a computer salesman for his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), and daughter, Dana (Eliza Dushku). His job is understandably intense and drives a wedge between Harry and Helen, but it also allows him to use every tool at his disposal to find out whether she is cheating on him with a used-car salesman (Bill Paxton). As Harry tries to teach his wife a lesson, he loses focus on a target, Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik), and soon, both he finds himself—and his wife—in grave danger.

The whole “double life of a spy” thing has been done dozens of times before (The Incredibles, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, etc.), but Cameron treats it in a way that’s both original and frustrating. He gives Harry the upper hand in this cat-and-mouse game. It’s odd because you’d expect Helen to somehow find out and set Harry up. Instead, he plays a trick on her—except it feels like a very dirty trick. I didn’t think a husband would do that to a terrified wife. I know that he believes she is cheating on him, but it still bothered me. It didn’t help that the scene was played for laughs (very uncomfortable laughs) and that Harry’s partner is in on it with him. They took advantage of her, and that whole scene turned me off to the film a bit.

Luckily, one earlier scene is so good that it more than makes up for Harry’s nastiness. We’ve seen oh so many chase scenes in film before, but never have I seen a chase between a man on a horse and a man on a bike. It’s deliciously over-the-top, especially when Harry and his horse start running in slo-mo to jump from the roof of one skyscraper to another. If you haven’t seen the film, you should at least watch that scene. It’s a thing of beauty.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearing in his third Cameron film, shows a deft hand at comedy. We already know he can play a badass action hero, but he also has great comedic timing, for the most part. The role doesn’t call for him to emote at all, but what the film does ask of him isn’t much of a problem. Jamie Lee Curtis is more than your average damsel in distress. It’s a strangely complicated role because she needs to appear to be holding a secret and appear clueless, occasionally at the same time. She does a great job and shows strong chemistry with her main co-star.

True Lies was one of the most expensive films ever made when it came out, and it’s not hard to see where the money went. Including the aforementioned horse vs. bike chase, the film probably has five or six really bombastic action scenes. In one, Harry fights a bad guy with a fighter jet. In another, he infiltrates a Swiss chalet. They are all big, loud scenes and are very entertaining; Cameron certainly knows how to do action.

This film might not be the funniest, most exciting, or most original, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s nice to see the lighter side of Jim Cameron, and it’s clear that Schwarzenegger and Curtis are really enjoying themselves. I think the film makes some missteps, but it overcomes them with solid laughs and action scenes. Plus, Arnold tries to make a horse jump off a skyscraper. Do you need any other reason to see it?

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