The Truth Is, There's More to 'Lies' Than Action

Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In "True Lies," Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a secret super-agent who tries to save the world from nuclear-warhead-wielding Arab terrorists while also trying to save his marriage to Helen, a secretary who fantasizes about the glamorous life her husband, unbeknown to her, actually leads. (Rated R)


It's James Bond of the '90s--more unusual explosions and high-tech gimmickry than you might need to see, more self-deprecating comedy and a subplot that finds family values triumphing over danger, glamour and sex. Sort of.

Still, it's an Arnold Schwarzennegger, muscle-bound, great-big-weapon action flick that is bound to solidify the two camps of parents: those who say the high body count and violence is untenable and the others who say, hey, it's just a fun movie.

Nevertheless, there seems to be no R rating that can stop kids from pouring into whatever movie they want to see--or that their parents take them to.

Cousins David Mendelsohn, 10, and Summer Karkoski, 12, said they had meant to see the PG-13 rated "Forrest Gump," but it was sold out so they went to "True Lies." They were sure this wasn't a movie for young children, but as action film buffs, they gave this one two thumbs up. Said Summer: "It was cool. It was like really action. It was nonstop."

David said he liked it better than Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" movies and his most recent "Last Action Hero."

"There's more action," he explained.

A few examples: Arnold slays a slew of guards at a fancy Washington party; he commandeers a police horse to chase a terrorist on a motorcycle through several floors of a fancy hotel; he and his wife, who gets drawn into the action, kill dozens of terrorists at their compound.

I've seen bloodier action movies, but this one had a new and disturbing wrinkle, particularly considering the current spotlight on domestic violence: The women are slapped and called bitches more than once. By movie's end, they have become as violent as the men.

In one scene, Arnold's wife, Helen, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and the terrorists' moll slug it out in a limo. When Helen finally does her in with a champagne bottle to the head, the audience cheered and clapped.

Summer said, "I preferably don't like to be called those names. . . . It's sexist."

Still, she said the language didn't bother her.

"If you hear it a lot, it doesn't really matter," she said. "But I wouldn't advise a little kid to see it."

There are other scenes, such as a comedic bump and grind Helen performs in a G-string for Harry, that are not kid material. There are also scenes of cruelty to animals, meant to elicit laughs, that brought gasps from the audience.

Still, kids had their favorite parts.

Taylor Clark, 9, remembered the detonation of an atomic warhead.

David liked a scene with Arnold piloting a high-tech warplane in downtown Miami with his 14-year-old daughter hanging onto the nose for dear life.

"It was great," he said.

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