American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There is a sequence near the end of "True Lies" in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is piloting a Harrier vertical-takeoff fighter plane, which hovers near a Miami high-rise while his teenage daughter clings precariously to the cockpit cover and a villain dangles by his gunbelt from one of the wingmounted missiles. Arnold arms the missile and fires it, terrorist attached, straight through the high-rise, and it shoots down a helicopter carrying other terrorists. This takes place, I might add, shortly after a nuclear bomb has vaporized one of the Florida keys.
It's stuff like that we go to Arnold Schwarzenegger movies for, and "True Lies" has a lot of it: Laugh-out-loud moments when the violence is so cartoonish we don't take it seriously, and yet are amazed at its inventiveness and audacity. Schwarzenegger has found himself in a lot of unlikely situations in his action-packed career, and "True Lies" seems determined to raise the ante - to go over the top with outlandish and extravagant special effects scenes.
Consider, for example, a chase sequence near the beginning of the movie, in which a bad guy on a motorcycle is chased by Arnold, on a horse, through a hotel lobby. Most movies would be content with that. Not "True Lies," which continues the chase on high-rise elevators and ends up on the hotel roof, with Arnold urging the horse to attempt a free fall into a swimming pool.
The plot is, of course, little more than a clothesline upon which to hang such set pieces. It involves Schwarzenegger as Harry, an ace U.S. spy, who has been married for 15 years to a sweet-tempered wife named Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who thinks he is a computer salesman. (He works for something called the Omega Force, which describes itself in its seal as "The Last Line of Defense.") How he has successfully managed this deception is one of the many questions the film does not pause to answer.