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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/9/99

True Lies
1994 (1999) Lightstorm/20th Century Fox (Fox)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits


True Lies Film Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A+/D

Specs and Features

144 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:04:57 at start of chapter 21), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (44 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a mild-mannered computer salesman... or so his family thinks, anyway. Harry is really a secret agent working for the U.S. Government, going undercover around the world in some of the most deadly and violent situations imaginable. He's been doing it for years, but somehow, he's managed to keep that fact secret from his wife, Helen (played by Jamie Lee Curtis). Unfortunately, Harry's so busy with his work, that he's neglected to give his wife the attention she deserves. When a scheming used car salesmen (Bill Paxton) flirts with her, hoping to get her in the sack, Harry catches on, and plans to teach them both a lesson. But in the process, his work catches up with him again (this guy just can't leave his work at the office). He and Helen are taken prisoner by a group of international terrorists, who plan to teach the world a 20 megaton lesson of their own. Can Harry save the day? What do you think?

James Cameron sure does know how to spin an good action yarn, doesn't he? I have to confess, that this film is a major guilty pleasure of mine. The action here is appropriately intense and cleverly staged (I mean, a horse and a Harrier in the same flick -come on!) The story is definitely amusing, and the plot builds to a satisfyingly dramatic climax. Then, just when you manage to catch your breath, the action picks up again, and doesn't let go until the bad guys get what's coming to them - a classic Cameron double-conclusion. There's no doubt about it - this flick leaves you hanging on for dear life, with some very nifty set-piece action sequences.

Next to the Terminator himself, Harry Tasker is (I think) Arnold's best on-screen role. The guy can do no wrong in a tight spot, and you even manage to sympathize with him. I mean, Harry can coolly handle a horde of armed thugs, but he's out of his element with his own family. How funny is that? Jamie Lee Curtis is terrific as his bookwormish wife. OK, she's only bookwormish for a while - Jamie definitely did some reps on the old Ab Roller for this part. I guess I've never considered her truly sexy before, which is why she's so perfect for this part. But, well... Jamie's got a hot little private dancer routine in this flick that will leave you steaming. She's also charming and very funny to boot. Add to that a hilarious turn by Tom Arnold as Harry's side-kick/partner ("I remember the first time I got shot out of a cannon..."), a funny bit by Paxton as a true slime-ball, and a trick cameo by Charlton Heston, and you've got a winner. Sure the film is a bit degrading to women. If you can overlook that one little faux pas, there are plenty of thrills to enjoy.

I'm not sure what difference the THX logo on this DVD package made to the overall quality. The letterbox widescreen picture is pretty good, but not great, and it's not anamorphic, which is a major disappointment. The colors are solid, and there's good contrast, but the picture is often grainy, and it's just a hair too crisp - artificial edge enhancement appears to be the culprit here. It's easy to overlook the problems, but I'd liken this transfer to those of the Die Hard series DVDs - it could have been better.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, on the other hand, is terrific. You get plenty of ear-splitting sound effects, nifty panning, and lots of rear channel and subwoofer action. The dialogue is clear, and the music is pulse-pounding. This isn't so much a natural, ambient-sound experience, as it is a tricky, surround sound system workout. And for a film like this, that's OK by me. Still, this DVD does disappoint in the extras department. Other than a full frame theatrical trailer of average quality, and a couple of spiffy animated menu screens, there's not much to give you your money's worth here.

All in all, True Lies is worth owning on DVD at a decent price. I wouldn't pay $30 for it, but at $24 or less, it's worth picking up. And if you're a big fan, I'm sure you'll not want to miss it. The quality is fair, but this disc should have been 16x9, and I at least expected a few more extras - something to put this DVD over the edge. I love the film, so I still recommend it for that reason alone. I'm cool with this disc - not exactly jumping for joy, but hey... it got my blood pumping for a couple of hours.

Bill Hunt
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