65% Gross Racist Dad Joke, 35% Spy Shit, 5% Paxton—True Lies: Cameron's Worst Film

Status
Not open for further replies.

Bobby Roberts

Banned
Feb 13, 2012
48,423
0
0
41
Portland, OR
geekremixed.com
Recently revisited this after having some friends over, and this came up in a mini-Paxton marathon. It was chosen largely because of all the performances in Cameron's worst movie (not counting Pirahna II, which nobody really counts) Paxton's shitty weasel of a scam-artist is the one that stands out the most in the memory. But then again, that's kinda what Paxton did: Show up, steal the movie, leave.



We knew it'd be racist, because it was racist in 94, and time hasn't gotten any kinder. So when the anti-arab racism started in full force, we were at least prepped for it, much like the sort of "oh shit, this awful mess is coming" you steel yourself for when watching something like You Only Live Twice (Bond in Yellowface) or Goldfinger (Bond rapes a lesbian straight).

But it's the Bond comparisons (and the movie openly invites them every 5-10 minutes, so it's unavoidable) that really brought into contrast just how badly this film has aged in the 20+ years since its release. I remembered this movie being more of a spy movie than it actually is. There's not much spy shit here at all. It's closer to fuckin' Austin Powers than Bond.



Maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But it's a slight one. This is James Cameron going for broke and trying to do the sort of action comedy that Edgar Wright would come along and perfect about 10 years later. And if his decision to rely on the one-two punch of Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold as the primary load bearers of this comedic burden wasn't enough of a sign his instincts were fucked, the actual jokes themselves would definitely hammer it home.

This shit is basically Dad Joke: The Movie. I did not remember this at all. More corn than Ray Kinsella's baseball diamond. And Cameron shoots the shit like he shoots everything else, too, so you have some Laffy Taffy comedy getting staged and blown through like he'd do any other action set piece, and holy shit is it weird. Curtis and Paxton are the only people in the film who seem to know how to transform these moments into the laughs that are intended.

And even Curtis' talents can only go so far, because what many people consider her standout moment in the film—the striptease—plays so fucked up. It probably did then, and I just didn't notice? Or I did and it didn't occur to me that it was fucked up, because I was a dumb fucked up kid back then too? The Venn diagram there is probably a lot fuller and rounder than I'd be comfortable with now.



But Harry Tasker essentially lies his wife into a dangerous situation, forces her to pretend she's a prostitute, then forces her to perform for him, and while Harry gets his comeuppance for this later, the entire thing is played 100% as an acceptable gag. It's really fucking creepy and gross.

I know he was making the film at the request of his friend Arnold, and he was coming off his third divorce, so maybe there was some serious shit to work through (The Abyss, which I believe was made while in the midst of marital troubles with his producer, features his most authentically felt romantic moment in any of his films, a moment in which his surrogate in the film, Ed Harris, slaps his dead wife in the face and calls her a bitch until she comes back to life via the power of his love) and attempting to make a lighthearted action comedy about saving your marriage by turning your wife into a version of yourself really appealed to him.

But James Cameron is not good at lighthearted comedy. He's good at mawkish romance, he's good at tension, he's good at action, he's good at pacing (usually - this movie is overstuffed as shit), and he's good at bits of comedy as punctuation and/or release. But sustained comedy? Nah. He's not good at that. At all.



If anything, maybe this is his Temple of Doom: A technically proficient (seriously, some of these stunts and setpieces are fucking nuts - and anything having anything to do with the harrier jets is amazing to look at) basket of weird, irresponsible, racist, and sexist elements hastily & sweatily glued together, showing off maybe a little too much of the less savory aspects of the man's storytelling sensibilities.

I like Temple of Doom better than I like this - and this is, amazingly, still kinda likable despite the fact it's mostly one long run-on gross dad joke.



Curtis and Paxton are the real MVPs. But this revisit did not go how I was expecting it to go.

When the blu-ray finally does drop, this is getting a pass.

I'm snatching up that Abyss in 1080p with the quickness, though.
 

WyndhamPrice

Member
Apr 27, 2008
4,900
0
0
I always kind of appreciated that when asked about doing a sequel to True Lies even Cameron was like "there's no fucking way that would even make sense in a post-9/11 world"

"I have a tiny dick, it's pathetic!" is a top 5 paxton line for real though
 

AgentP

Member
Jun 5, 2011
6,990
958
630
Great comedy with action. No idea WTF dad joke or racist about it. Must be some ultra sensitive millinial crap.
 
Apr 18, 2012
6,965
0
0
Cannes, FRANCE
I revisited it last year and it held up okay for me despite some of the dated elements. Still, definitely a very minor Cameron movie but with more personality than Avatar imo. Probably the Paxton effect. The French original was kinda fun too although I haven't seen it in decades. It had legendary actress Miou-Miou in the Jamie Lee Curtis role and she's always a delight.
 

L Thammy

Member
Nov 4, 2012
15,055
0
0
I only saw a small part of this movie, but it seemed like it was more interesting than Junior ended up being. That's good enough for me.
 

Mister Saturn

Member
Sep 1, 2011
4,880
0
0
Nah it's alright, Cameron basically took the single-line premise of "family man actually super spy" and turned it into an indulgent and trashy spy-novel/Arnold movie. It is definitely dated and stereotyping, but I'll take a Cameron dud over a lot of other directors good stuff, and would still rather watch True Lies more than most action/action-comedies of today.

Also it's not Cameron's worst post-piranhas film, Ghosts of the Abyss holds that distinction (IMO).
 

GhaleonEB

Member
Jun 7, 2004
77,909
2
1,490
Oregon
I remember loving it, but it's been 10 years since I saw it. Bill Paxton and Tom Arnold (!!!!) somehow steal the movie.

The striptease never played well though. I remember being totally grossed out by it at the time - it's a really cruel scene, in context - and it only aged worse. A black eye on Cameron's writing, for sure.

I don't think it was trying to a serous spy film at all, but more of an action/comedy with light satirical nods toward Bond. This thread makes me want to revisit it, though, and see how well it holds up.

Part of me doesn't want to though, because my memory is fond, and I've shattered a lot of fond memories lately by doing this. But I think I might, if for nothing but Paxton.
 

Aurongel

Member
Sep 27, 2011
9,629
1
510
Ehh, its more intentionally brain dead in spots than outright racist. I think this films kind of a low bar for what constitutes as racist considering the most striking characteristic of the villains is how incredibly inept they are. If you want to argue that it doesn't play as well in a post-911 world them that's something I'd consider but reducing this down to a reductive list of tropes as you're doing is pretty misguided.
 

liquidtmd

Banned
Jun 10, 2012
13,423
1
0
I always kind of appreciated that when asked about doing a sequel to True Lies even Cameron was like "there's no fucking way that would even make sense in a post-9/11 world"
I kinda disagree with Cameron here, in that at heart it was a fairly flexible action spy romp.

Getting the principles back for a sequel with action, comedy and espionage film would have been relatively simple to write around. I just saw it more as Cameron not particularly caring about it that much, which i can appreciate.

I liked it a fair old bit and rewatched it last year but I wouldn't disagree with Bobby on this being his 'worst' movie and that's coming from me who disliked Avatar more to see as a movie (conversely since while I dislike Avatar, I can appreciate it on a few levels)
 

Matt

Member
Jun 7, 2004
10,828
1
1,320
Obviously Paxton and Curtis are the stars of the movie, but I always found Tom Arnold to be great in it as well. Like, this is the one time Tom Arnold ever worked.
 

entremet

Member
Dec 6, 2008
85,462
125
1,160
Great movie.

I do remember the protests from Arab American groups when it was released too. Unfortunate and lazy tropes.

Also Back to the Future did the same thing too. We forgave it as well, although it came earlier.
 

TaterTots

Banned
Jun 14, 2015
4,200
0
0
I haven't seen the film in ages, but I remember enjoying it. Not sure what the racist stuff is since I haven't seen it in a long time.
 

MattKeil

BIGTIME TV MOGUL #2
Aug 4, 2004
16,222
2
1,410
This is pretty much how I felt when I watched it in the theater, especially the striptease scene, but everyone thought I was crazy at the time. It's weirdly gross and tone deaf, even for the time, and the spy bits feel like a generic brand version of the films it's drawing inspiration from. People who were teenagers at the time seem to love it, but I remember it being one of the pieces of evidence the Titanic skeptics were using in 1997 pre-release as proof that Cameron had "lost it." I didn't really disagree.
 

LifEndz

Member
Jul 4, 2008
4,774
0
775
That strip tease made me fall in love with Jamie Lee Curtis. My dad got me Trading Places on VHS when I was a kid and I had her strip scene in that memorized for years.

Great movie. "You tell on me, I tell on you" is a line my friends and I routinely throw at each other.
 

Prost

Member
Jul 2, 2005
5,572
1
1,125
WTF a True Lies hate topic. What the hell is this? It's a fantastic movie all around, then and now.
This ^^^

Great movie. It's not suppose to be taken so seriously. And I don't remember there being an overt amount of racist dad jokes. Maybe some from Tom Arnold?
 

MattKeil

BIGTIME TV MOGUL #2
Aug 4, 2004
16,222
2
1,410
This ^^^

Great movie. It's not suppose to be taken so seriously. And I don't remember there being an overt amount of racist dad jokes. Maybe some from Tom Arnold?
By this point have we really not learned that "It's just a joke!" is not an excuse? There's some nasty, cruel, and yes, racist shit in True Lies. That it was presented as part of an action comedy doesn't change that.
 

Garjon

Member
Sep 21, 2008
3,801
0
0
31
England
It's obviously dated and some parts are frankly quite difficult to watch but that doesn't make it an unenjoyable film. I thought the film was making fun of most of the Hollywood spy cliches, specifically the glamourisation - most of the agents spend their time in offices or vans and a good third of the film is Arnie using the agency's resources to torment some guy he thinks his wife is having an affair with! I can't deny the film has its share of missteps but out of the many action spy vs terrorists films of the 90s, it is surely at the top.
 
Apr 19, 2011
21,374
1
530
I honestly couldn't remember who did the dumbass 'kill the bad guy with a missile launch' gag first, this or The Rock.

Turns out it was this. Boy was that shit dumb to watch twice, and it's even worse in The Rock.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.