Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron are a match made in heaven. The Terminator films they did together are some of the best action films ever produced. Separately, they’ve both done amazing stuff, but when they work together it really seems as though Schwarzenegger and Cameron bring out the best in each other. Case in point, the blockbuster masterpiece, True Lies. It is, quite possibly, the best thing these two superstars have done.
True Lies is often overlooked in the canon of ’80s and ’90s action films. Its strong comedy elements – and it’s true that a large portion of the film is dedicated to comedy – seems to make fans forget about the film is action. True Lies is, unfairly, left off of countless best-of lists. It’s rarely included in Schwarzenegger DVD collections, and it has yet to make the jump to Blu-ray. The exclusion and disregard of True Lies is criminal, because it’s brilliant.
The comedy is on-mark the whole time. Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing, awkwardly stumbling through her scenes and damn near stealing the movie. She even won a Golden Globe for her performance. Tom Arnold and Arnold Schwarzenegger are surprisingly fantastic together. Charlton Heston essentially plays Nick Fury, which is all kinds of amazing. Then there’s Bill Paxton, who plays the wonderfully douchey Simon. He’s superb, cowering and cackling his way into our hearts. True Lies is funny and charming all the way through, but we shouldn’t hold that against it.
When it comes to action, nobody films it better than James Cameron. The man goes big, every time, delivering some of the smoothest, most explosive action set pieces you will ever see. True Lies is no exception. The chase scenes are some of the best ever captured on film, tearing through hotels, city streets, and highways. Cameron never cheats, never shies away from showing you every shattered window, every bullet hole, and every broken bone.
It’s also, unabashedly, rated R. Nowadays, a big summer action flick like this would be shoehorned into a PG-13, but Cameron and Schwarzenegger’s clout allowed them to make the film they wanted and keep the tone that Cameron’s script set. True Lies was the first film with a production budget over $100 million (Cameron would later break his own record with Titanic, which boasted a budget over $200 million). It’s clear this creative team had a vision – however goofy, violent, and politically deaf it may have been – and they stuck to it. True Lies is better for it.
It’s this blend of action and comedy that makes True Lies hold up so well. It looks, moves, and feels modern. There’s a template created by this movie that most big summer blockbusters follow these days. The wit and charm of a fun, goofy cast is embedded in a high-stakes action thriller; you don’t have to look far to find other movies attempting to capture this magic. Schwarzenegger has always had a love for comedy, but he never pulls it off as well as he did in True Lies. He is also as wonderfully brutal and dominating as ever.
They just don’t make them like this anymore. Big, violent, funny, and R-rated action movies seem to be a thing of the past, and that’s a damn shame. True Lies is awesome, even though some action movie fanatics seem to want to forget that fact. Being funny doesn’t stop it from kicking ass, and kicking ass doesn’t stop it from being funny. Cameron and Schwarzenegger need to reunite; hell, it seems like the time is right for a True Lies sequel, doesn’t it? Cameron is probably the most consistent man in Hollywood, turning everything he touches into gold, and Schwarzenegger could use a little gold these days. Forget revisiting Terminator, Arnie, we need you to suit up as Harry Tasker again.