'True Lies': THR's 1994 Review
On July 15, 1994, 20th Century Fox unveiled James Cameron's actioner True Lies in theaters stateside, where it went on to become a summer hit grossing $146 million. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a double life in True Lies. On the homefront, he's a boring computer salesman; on the international scene, he's a James Bond-ish spy. Similarly, this 20th Century Fox release will lead a double life, although in no such contradictory terms — on the domestic front, it will be a monster hit; in the international sphere, it will be a box-office colossus.
Once again, the joint force of Schwarzenegger and James Cameron unleash the full power of big-budget filmmaking, exploding the frame with all the filmic firepower of state of the art wizardry and robust storytelling. Indeed, Cameron brings his own unique meaning to the words "over budget": He has put a look on the screen that is way over whatever the budget was.
Cross Bond with Maxwell Smart and you come up with Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), who jiggles all sorts of complex contradictions within his life. Harry tends to focus on the more thrilling parts, like jetting all over the world and thwarting international skullduggery as part of the elite U.S. Omega Force. His card might read, "Have Tux Will Travel." Harry's alter ego is a dull breadwinner who, like most male suburbanites, bores his hausfrau (Jamie Lee Curtis) with the minutiae of his drab job. Surprisingly, for thrill-aholic Harry, he finds his most dangerous territory is his marriage. Since his wife never sees that tango-dancing, "perfect Arabic"-speaking, bad guy-drubbing side of him, she seeks out other excitement. Harry soon finds that all the president's helicopters and all the president's gadgets can't put his marriage back together again.
Wiring his save-the-world story load with a engagingly funny subplot involving Harry's homefront mission of revitalizing his marriage, screenwriter-director Cameron has delivered a fresh and funny peek into the real-world woes of international spy heroes. Although the domestic saga sags a bit and tucks in a little too pat, it's a touching and comedic counterpoint to the big-screen action. However, there are no false truths in True Lies action sequences: They're done in prototypical Cameronvision — warp speed, extreme environments and envelope-pushed dimension.
A surround-round of applause for the technical aces: the kinetic cuts (editors Conrad Buff, Mark Goldblatt, Richard A. Harris), the spellbinding compositions (cinematographer Russell Carpenter) and the special-effects wizardry (Digital Domain).
Thanks to Cameron and the talented players, the hardware never overwhelms the characters. Schwarzenegger's comic confidence and good-guy tenacity are a perfect balance, while Curtis wins our sympathy as his repressed wife, showing some deadpan drollery of her own. Tom Arnold is a comic delight as Harry's screwy sidekick while Tia Carrere is perfectly cast as the exotic femme fatale. — Duane Byrge, originally published July 11, 1994.