The system gave him a raw deal... Nobody gives him a RAW DEAL.
Back of Blu-ray:
Dismissed some time ago from the FBI, Mark Kaminksy is contacted by his old boss, Shannon, whose son has been murdered. Determined to find the assassin, Shannon needs Kaminsky's help and offers to re-instate him if he is successful. Kaminsky assumes a new identity and moves to Chicago where he ingratiates himself with the underworld. To be successful, it is vital he is accepted by the gangsters...
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in my opinion, is the number one action movie star of the 80's. Others prefer Stallone for his Rambo's or Van Damme for Kickboxer and Bloodsport, but I grew up on Arnie. His body of work was also more varied than the other stars (at least the plot lines were) but still he remained focused on the action. This of course changed in the 90's when he had misfires like Junior and Jingle all the Way, but Arnie's 80's action one liners are funnier than any comedy movie he ever attempted and is partially what is so memorable about him.
Sandwiched in between two undeniable classic Schwarzenegger movies - Commando (1985) and Predator (1987) - came Raw Deal, one of Arnie's most underrated movies. Everybody remembers The Terminator, Commando and Predator. Most people remember The Running Man and Conan the Barbarian. Less would recognise Red Heat ("Is that the one where he's a Russian?") and I would say that even less would remember Raw Deal. This is truly a shame; it is not his best movie by any means, and there are not many good one liners (but one of his best is present) but the action is up there with any of his other 1980's action movies.
The movie starts with a sniper and a team of gangsters armed with machine guns taking out a few undercover cops in a cabin in the woods. Once the cops are dispatched with, the leader finds a man cowering in the bathroom. He is propped in front of a mirror so he can see himself being executed ("So you wanna be a witness? Witness this."). The FBI arrive on the scene later, one of the leading detectives Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) clearly more upset than the others; "They're dead." Okay it sounds more emotional when you hear it.
Next we follow Schwarzenegger in lumberjack threads and driving a jeep through dirt roads chasing a guy on a motorbike. Not able to catch up with him, Arnie doubles back and waits for the guy on return, calmly pouring petrol on the road and throwing a lit cigar at the puddle when the bike approaches. The guy flies off his bike in the explosion and Arnie hauls him in to the station. Arnie it turns out is a small town Sherif, and the guy is booked for impersonating a police officer. Arnie returns home after a hard days work to see his drunk wife crying into a cake she is baking. Depressed with her life in nowheresville, Arnie explains he did the best he could under the circumstances - the circumstances being kicked out of his former job at the FBI - a story she has obviously heard a hundred times, so writes the word "SHIT" in whipped cream on the cake and throws it at Arnies head. He responds.. "You should not drink and bake." Classic.
Arnie receives a phone call from his former FBI boss, Shannon, who wants to meet with him. Shannon shows him some video of a Chicago crime gang (fronted by Luigi Patrovita) and explains that they are responsible for his son's death - his son being one of the cops guarding the witness killed in the opener. Shannon's plan (which is not authorised by the FBI) is for Arnold to go in undercover to infiltrate the Patrovita gang, gain their trust and destroy them from inside. In return he will be reinstated with the FBI. Arnie agrees and away we go.
The action in this movie is in tight little pockets. There will be plot exposition for a while then small bursts of tight action. This style is inline with most of Schwarzenegger's 80's output, particularly something like Red Heat, but with far less comedic elements. This is a straight-up crime-based action movie, with cliched Italian-American mob characters and plenty of shootouts - a great recipe for bad action in my book.
Arnie quite cleverly doesn't go direct to Patrovita. Instead, he makes a name for himself by messing up the affairs of Patrovita's rival, Martin Lamanski. In an underground gambling room, Arnie insists that the roulette table is not straight and proves his point by dropping two ball bearings on the table (which roll away). This results in a standard-issue bar fight including a television going through a guys head and one of the cronies left dangling from the cieling. As the remainder of the gang recover, Arnie nicks off with a truck and ploughs it right through the wall!
Eventually Arnie makes himself known to Patrovita via his underling, Paulo Roccoa, and his assistant Max Keller (played by 80's staple Robert Davi). Max doesn't trust Arnie one bit. I should mention that Arnie's assumed crime name is Joseph P. Brenner. In an alley fight broken up by the cops he is asked what the P stands for; "Pussy". Oh, Arnold. He ends up getting the job of assistant thug and also meets Max's would-be-except-she-don't-want-none-of-that girlfriend Monique (Kathryn Harrold), befriends her, gets drunk with her and falls unconscious in her motel. Watch for when he falls on the bed hitting his head on the headboard. Thud.
There is plenty action staples in Raw Deal. The aforementioned bar fight, a scene at a night club (with strippers), a car chase with shootout, a guy being thrown through a glass window, a bomb threat and a car crashing into a tanker truck and exploding - all great stuff and done well. The two final shootouts are excellent; one at a coal mine to the tune of "I can't get no satisfaction", and the other one quite methodical in 'The Terminator bursting into the police station' style at Patrovita's offices.
So, Raw Deal is a good little actioner. Derivative, sure, but Arnie sells it well, and it's enjoyable seeing him earn the trust of Patrovita and his gang then watch him destroy it all in the end. In a way it's refreshing - many of Arnie's action movies involve aliens, other planets, fantasy worlds and killer robots from the future. This, like Commando, is the Steven Seagal style of an ex-something-or-other agent out for revenge/one final job - just with a little mob flavour added.
Underrated, and very worthy of your time.
Even though this is a lesser-appreciated Arnie movie from the 80's, the transfer here is nothing less than astonishing. Fine detail never seen before on DVD is clear as a bell here. Great colour representation, deep blacks, etc. I couldn't expect an 80's actioner to look any better than this, and that's a big compliment. The audio too is clear and refined with a DTS-HD Master Audio track. There are also a couple of good featurettes on the disc (this is the Australian release Blu-ray but it is zone ABC so will work worldwide). Feature runtime 105 minutes.
NOTE: the screenshots in this review are from the DVD as I cannot capture Blu-ray images yet.
JB-Hi Fi for $24.95