Arnold Schwarzenegger & James Cameron – Part 3 of 3: True Lies (1994)

Harry Tasker is a crack secret agent working for the elite Omega Sector. He and his partner Albert “Gib” Gibson are working to bring down a terrorist cell known as “Crimson Jihad”. Tasker is the best operative they have. An expert in weapons, martial arts – and fluent in several languages. 

His wife Helen and daughter Dana don’t know any of this though. They think he’s a boring computer salesman.

Helen is bored. She wants some excitement in her life. She’s been seeing a sleazy used car salesman called Simon who’s pretending HE’S a secret agent. She’s strongly considering having an affair with him.

Harry finds out about this and uses his connections to win back his wife by setting up a little fake scenario to give Helen the excitement she so desperately craves.

But when Crimson Jihad catches up with him and threatens to detonate a nuclear warhead on U.S soil – Harry’s two separate lives are about to collide. Not only is he going to have to save the world from all out destruction – he’s going to have to explain himself to his wife.

Written and directed by James Cameron – this is a loose remake of La Totaleand a project bought to him by Schwarzenegger. It was the first film to be made under the banner of Cameron’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment and the first project for Digital Domain, a visual effects company which Cameron co founded.

They say a good film director should be able to make a good film in any genre – and here Cameron reveals a flair for comedy. Surprising given how dark and serious all his previous films had been up until this point.

He still manages to deliver cracking action scenes and work in his directorial trademarks. Namely the threat of nuclear destruction and strong female characters. Also the stop and start of two separate narratives which eventually combine in the film’s third act.

Brad Fiedel shows some versatility too in delivering a rousing orchestral score to go with all the onscreen action.

Tom Arnold is great fun as Tasker’s wisecracking partner Gib – and Jamie Lee Curtis does well as his wife Helen. There’s also an early appearance from future Buffy star Eliza Dushku.

Art Malik is a hoot as the unintentionally funny baddie Aziz – and Bill Paxton almost steals the whole film as the weaselly Simon. A character who is as full of shit as Harry is but in a totally different way. Charlton Heston also gets a fun cameo as Tasker’s boss.

The real star of course though is Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is an unidentifiable magic in his collaborations with Cameron. He’s the one director who really brings out the best in the Austrian Oak.

Harry Tasker is a fun character. You know why? Because he is a total and utter weapons grade ASSHOLE. Seriously – he’s the biggest jerk in the whole film. Lying to his wife about his job, tricking her into thinking she’s doing a secret mission, scaring Simon so much he pisses his pants – and abusing government funding and resources to do so. He  also blackmails poor Gib (a guy who’s supposed to be his best friend) to help him do ALL of this.

Harry Tasker is a grade A monumental PRICK.

You’d hate him if he wasn’t so damn FUNNY.

BOY is he funny. Two laugh out loud scenes are his devastatingly sarcastic responses when asked to identify a nuclear warhead and his truth serum induced conversation with Helen. He sure is a piece of work – but you can’t help but love him.

The laughs really come as thick and fast as the action scenes. Blistering onscreen mayhem which when it gets going just does not let up. Gun fights, knife fights, fist fights, bike chases, HORSE chases and a sequence with a Harrier Jump Jet that just has to be seen to be believed – this movie is James Cameron firing on all cylinders and it’s glorious to behold.

World events since this movie was released have made parts of it a lot less funny than they were – and have bollocksed any chances of a sequel. A damn shame.

True Lies is the closest you’ll ever get to James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger making a James Bond film.

Great entertainment from start to finish.

The Man Who Saved Movies. You’re fired. 

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  • Dee-abolik

    Awesome movie, still. Bill Paxton is brilliant in this.

    • Oh man, he’s hilarious!!

      • KGrimes

        Still can’t wrap my head around that “ass like a 12 yr old boy” line. And the fact that he’s said it’s something his dad used to say.

  • I_am_better

    You’re right. Bill Paxton does steal the whole film.
    Sadly I’m one of those who feels that the comedy-aspect of the film doesn’t really work, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

    • How come?

      • I_am_better

        I think it’s because it’s so all over the place. You go from kinda subtle comedy, like the “confession under truth serum”-scene into Road Runner-cartoon gags like the terrorist slamming his groin into the tail of the plane.

        I still like the action scenes. There are some which are the best Arnold has ever filmed. Although in rewatch, the Harrier-scene in the end has not stood the test of time in all places

    • I was just gonna say something like, “I am surprised that some folks don’t enjoy the comedic side of this movie…”
      I think it works beautifully, as Stu says, *only* because it’s Arnold in the role. This role and this movie needed an 80’s action icon to fill the role and I can only think of a few, maybe Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis, who could’ve pulled it off. But in the end I think it’s my second or third favorite Arnold performance. It’s really the high-point of his comedy roles, because after that I think he made ‘Junior’ and ‘Jingle All The Way’ which weren’t all that great. We already know JC could do action but he brilliantly gave Arnold so much more to do here, and found the perfect wise-cracker in Tom Arnold to be the other half.

      • Absolutely.

      • President of what?

        Jackie Chan can pull off comedy action very well, but TL felt a bit forced.

        • Really? It didn’t feel forced to me at all!

          • President of what?

            The comedy didnt feel organic and the Middle eastern Crimson Jihad bantering was uninspired as with “You’re fired” Then again, Ahnuld made that catchphrase cooler than Dumbnold Frump.?

    • President of what?

      And that’s why I didnt care for this movie. It was packaged as some action rom-com but the end result fell flat IMO.
      Sure it’s based on foreign source material, but it didnt grab me anywhere near Cameron’s big three:Aliens and of course, Terminator and T2.

      • In it’s defence though, it is going for a different tone. It’s the only film ? James Cameron has made that audiences aren’t supposed to take seriously.

    • KGrimes

      I always liked the part where Tom Arnold pats himself down to check for bullet wounds after a shootout, grabs a hold of his dick, and whispers a silent prayer of thanks when he finds it intact.

  • Agreed on all points…except that Harry is an asshole. Sure he lies, cheats, and uses people to his advantage…but it’s for the greater good. World safety! Harry is clearly a Star Trek II fan: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Contrast that with Simon, who does all those things, but not for the greater good. He does it so he can wet his little dick. It’s pathetiiiiiiiic!

  • The Magic Hunter

    I haven’t seen this (Boo!), but after reading this now I soon will (Yay!)

  • Death’s Head

    “She got these titties, makes you wanna stand up and beg for buttermilk. Ass like a 10 year old boy!”

    I used to quote that line all time when I was out in bars. Not so much anymore, yes?

    • If you get her pilot lit, she could suck start a leaf ? blower! ?

    • That 10-year-old boy thing has always bugged me. I like crass humor but that line is pretty bad.

      • It just shows what a despicable asshole that character is.

        • Looking back now after his passing, I see that ONLY Bill Paxton could’ve pulled that line off and made it work. He’s the kind of real Texan that I aspire to be – clever, sincere, and friendly.

          • I must admit, I’ve always laughed at it. Its not what he says that’s funny – its the fact that he’d say it.

          • I remember the theater went dead silent when Arnold back-handed him, and then erupted in laughter when Simon started laughing.

          • That scene is edited on the UK DVD. Pisses me off

  • KGrimes

    I loved this movie as a kid but let’s be real: It was all about the strip tease scene.

  • jackcolton

    love this movie. It’s fun, exciting, it has Arnie and Cameron having a great time together. great action, Bill Paxtons a hoot, and arnie and Tom Arnold were a good pairing … and that strip scene was worth the price alone. really wanted a sequel to this.