Underrated Classics: ‘True Lies’

“True Lies” was originally written as a remake of the 1991 French film “La Totale!”. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Owen Johnson
Connector Staff

In memory of Bill Paxton, 1955-2017.

After returning home from an international spy mission, Agent Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) discovers that his neglected wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) has started having an affair with another man (Bill Paxton).

“True Lies” is a very strange mixture of a movie. The overarching movie is an action spy thriller but weaved into it is a light romantic comedy movie that surprisingly weld together well. The comedy that is in the movie never feels like it conflicts with the established thriller tone, and the comedy is mostly subtle. The only comedy in the movie that is not really subtle comes from Tom Arnold as the comic relief character, and some of the stuff with Paxton’s character.

The mixture of the romantic comedy and spy thriller actually leads to some pretty creative twists on the formulas of both genres. For example, in almost every romantic comedy there is the part where a whacky misunderstanding happens, which gets the characters into trouble. In “True Lies,” the whacky misunderstanding leads to characters getting wrapped up in espionage schemes they have no business being in.

Setting the romantic comedy aspect aside, “True Lies” works as a spy thriller. Schwarzenegger is a charismatic and likable lead to be believed as a spy. It has the perfect amount of comic relief in it that it does not become annoying or detrimental to the movie. It has a large range when it comes to action scenes, from a simple fight in a public restroom all the way to a person being extracted from the back of a limousine via a person dangling from a helicopter.

The range of the action scenes is almost unneeded, because of how well the set pieces of the scenes are utilized. Even the most simple of the action set pieces uses everything it has to its advantage. Take the fight scene in the public bathroom, for example. Every single item in a public bathroom that could be used for a fight scene is used.

Something that is really surprising is how good a lot of the performances in the movie are, considering it is a comedic spy thriller. Schwarzenegger does a decent job as a secret agent posing as an everyday family man.

The only big issue with the movie is how the story is handled. When the romantic comedy angle comes into play, the spy plot about terrorists is put on hold while Schwarzenegger and Arnold follow Curtis and Paxton around. Then, when the spy plot comes back into play, it is unexpected and comes out of nowhere. Both plots work on their own, but when they were placed together it was not done as stellar as it could have been.

“True Lies” is a movie that rides the line between being a romantic comedy or a spy thriller, and manages to achieve both.

Final Grade: B+

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