This Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy vehicle is far bolder, funnier and irreverent than its reputation suggests. Schwarzenegger himself is down to riff on his own persona throughout the movie, and it’s great to see 1980s action conventions sent up so thoroughly but lovingly by one the genre’s most beloved stars. The movie-within-a-movie structure is unusual for this genre (to say the least), and while it doesn’t always work, it’s at least original enough to stand out even more than two decades since its release. Unfortunately the movie is about forty five minutes too long, with a ceaseless parade of non-endings that grind the movie’s pace and momentum to a halt (a last minute bit involving Ian McKellen as Death from “The Seventh Seal” is a particularly egregious example of the movie not knowing when to quit). With such a significant running time, director John McTiernan has trouble navigating all the movie’s plots and double realities along with the deliriously (and deliberately) over-the-top action sequences, and it all becomes too much. But getting there, the movie is a darn blast, and it deserves a fresher reputation than it has.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)