True Lies is one of my favorite action movies. The action scenes are intense and it’s funny to boot. Not only is a great movie, but a while back,  I played through the SNES game from 1994. So I thought why not do another double feature review?

Based on the French film, La Totale!, True Lies is about a secret agent who leads a double life. Harry Tasker is a Bond-like secret agent. But to his family, he’s just a father and computer salesman. Tasker has been on the trail of a violent terrorist, Aziz who has a plan to nuke the United States. However, Harry’s mind is elsewhere as his wife is cheating on him with a weaselly car salesman. Making his wife pay for his infidelity becomes Harry’s number one priority and as a result, the two of them are kidnapped when one of Harry’s plans backfires.

Like I said, the action scenes are really cool and this should be no surprise considering this movie was made by James Cameron– and this was the last really good action movie he made (yes, I’m counting Avatar). The comedy comes from a lot of angles – one-liners, Tom Arnold as Harry’s partner, Harry’s obsession with tango dancing, some of the incompetence of the terrorists (like trying to shoot Aziz’s message only to run low on batteries), and some of the action scenes are pretty funny too – such as the horseback/motorcycle chase.

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Arnold Schwarzenegger in this part. He was one of – if not THE – quintessential action star of the 90’s. Putting aside many of the personal revelations, he was funny and likable enough to be believable as a loving father. Okay, it’s a little hard to swallow that an Austrian bodybuilder would just blend into a crowd, but you can’t win ‘em all.

Jaime Lee Curtis is pretty good as Harry’s wife,Helen. With parts in A Fish Called Wanda and Trading Places, Curtis showed that she could handle comedy. However, she wasn’t known for action, but I think that just helps her look like she’s in over her head. Tom Arnold, Charlton Heston and Bill Paxton also fill their respective roles perfectly.

This movie has come under fire for two reasons –accusations of sexism and anti-Arab sentiment. People often accuse this movieof being sexist because of the way Harry basically torments his wife when he finds out she’s having an affair. I feel this part more or less plays with the audience’s imagination. A lot of people – men and women – have probably had to deal with someone cheating on them at one point or another, and have probably only dreamed of doing what Harry does. Although, going to the lengths he does of scaring the bejezus out of his wife may be mean, he suffers the consequences as his distraction allows him to be caught by the enemy. In the end, Helen proves herself as competent and manages to keep herself alive. Obviously, I’m not a woman so I don’t know how something like this can affect a woman’s psyche, but trust me, I don’t normally approve of the very misogynist way women are often depicted in movies – like they’re just some prize to be won. And hey, my mom likes this movie!

The movie also came under fire because the villains are Arab. This was a pretty big deal during the mid-90’s as a lot of movies were criticized for using Arabs and what not as villains in movies. I remember Gene Siskel thought it was hilarious that Mighty Ducks 2 resorted to Iceland for villains to be politically correct. While Colin Quinn joked (in reference to the movie The Siege) that he saw a movie about the Crypts that starred Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Greg Kinnear. Again, this is one of those things that I can’t really call myself an expert on as I’m not an Arab. However, Ifind the portrayal of Arabs more or less coincidental. Unlike say – World War II era cartoons – the movie doesn’t villify the terrorists for being Arab. It vilifies them for being terrorists. And frankly, I don’t think this movie is going to actively sway anyone into having a negative opinion about Arabs. I know I watched this movie at a young, impressionable age, and I didn’t have a negative opinion about Arabs growing up.

Either way, I’m sure most people can agree True Lies the movie is a classic, but what about True Lies the game? This is a game that actually seemed to have a lot going against it. First of all, it’s a movie-licensed game and I think we all know that for every Goldeneye, Aladdin and Spider-man 2, there are three Back to the Futures, E.T.’s, and Batman Forevers. Also, this game was released by LJN. I won’t argue the particulars about how LJN was owned by Acclaim (who’s been hit and miss) or whether or not, it’s publishers’ faults for the way games turn out. But I’m sure a lot of people would be turned off by the LJN rainbow (especially AVGN fans).

But surprisingly, it’s a pretty good game. It’s an overhead shooter. There are a variety of levels including a shopping mall, dock, and park. You get a ton of weapons – shotgun, Uzi 9mm (sorry, I couldn’t resist, but there’s no phase plasma rifle with a 40-wattrange), grenades and my favorite: The flamethrower. It doesn’t last long, but there’s a sick satisfaction in burning enemies to a crisp. Hey, it’s better than burning a real person to a crisp! There’s only one vehicle level, a helicopter shooting level. It’s the only level like it – and the only easy level in the game – but it’s a fun diversion.

The game follows the movie decently, but does take a few liberties. There’s no Jamie Lee Curtis striptease which is either good news or bad news for some of you. Digitized screen caps are used to transition between levels. It doesn’t have a lot of purpose, but it is a nice touch. I have to say seeing Tom Arnold does better place one in the movie. The music isn’t from the movie, but it’s still decent. I doubt anyone who plays this game will be humming the music, but it serves its purpose of getting the blood pumping.

I will warn people that this game does have one shortcoming that might turn some players off. Let me ask something: If I told you that enemies never re-spawned, you had a huge life bar, ammo was plentiful and when you die, you start back where you left off, would you believe this game was hard? Well, let me tell you something: It is. Take it from someone who’s beaten Batman, Zelda II, The Guardian Legend, both Startropics games, Alien Soldier, most of the Donkey Kong Country games, and Castlevania IV all without cheating or using save states, this is one hard game! First of all, you have no recovery time when you’re hit. Combine that with the fact that it’s nigh impossible to get your shots in without getting shot, and that huge life bar will deplete pretty quickly. And if you think the first levels where the enemies just have regular guns are rough, wait til you get to the later stages where enemies have flamethrowers and rocket launchers. Also, there’s no easy mode – just normal and hard.

I normally don’t condone cheating (though it sure as hell doesn’t stop me from doing it), but this is one game where you might want to plug in the infinite lives code. Funny thing though is if you use that code (or probably any code), Aziz scolds you every time you die. (Pretends to think about it) I can live with that… Though for the truly brave, I do have some advice – don’t conserve ammo. With the exception of the more powerful weapons (flamethrower, grenades), you get PLENTY of ammo. Plus, Harry Tasker got the same handguns from Left 4 Dead that never run out of ammo so you’ll never have to rely on your fists like in Die Hard. The game was released on both the SNES and the Genesis, though I imagine it’s easier to play with the SNES controller (But if anyone’s tried playing this with the3-button Genesis controller, let me know that worked out). Either way, it’s a pretty good game based on a great movie… even if only the truly brave will beat it honestly.

 

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