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Red Heat
1988 - R - 106 Mins.
Director: Walter Hill
Written By: Walter Hill and Harry Kleiner
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Peter Boyle, Laurence Fishburne, Ed 'Ross, Gina Gershon
Review by: John Ulmer
"Red Heat" is a by-the-numbers cop-buddy film, complete with over-exaggerated stunts, big-budget car chases, and a climatic hero-vs. -baddie showdown. Only this time, it's Russian style.

The first film ever filmed in Moscow's famed Red Square, "Red Heat" is about a Russian cop named Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who joins forces with "Chicago's craziest cop," Art Ridzik (James Belushi), in an effort to bring down a Russian drug smuggler named Viktor (Ed O'Ross) who is sneaking drugs in the United States.

Ridzik is what I refer to as the Martin Riggs Cliché: He's the trigger-happy, irreverent, carefree cop who does whatever it takes to get the job done.

What Riggs is to Ridzik, Roger Murtaugh is to Ivan Danko. I expected to hear him say the family equivalent of Murtaugh's tagline at any moment: "I'm too old for this stuff." Maybe it's the routine.

"Red Heat" is fun, to a certain extent, but it's a bad movie. James Belushi is a funny guy, and he certainly carries whatever there is to carry in this film with the help of Arnie, who does his best impression of a Russian Terminator. In fact, maybe the secret to be revealed in "Red Heat 2" is that he was a T-R (Terminator-Russian) all along, sent back through time to eliminate Viktor before he enslaved mankind.

Maybe not.

Peter Boyle (Wizard from "Taxi Driver") pops up a few times throughout the film as the Chief of Police in Chicago, as well as Laurence Fishburne in a pre-"Matrix" role. Boyle is the guy who yells at the cops for making mistakes and costing the force thousands of dollars for a simple careless event. Fishburne is the cop who hates Belushi and rolls his eyes a lot.

Speaking of actors, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an underrated action hero. Why? Because people like to make fun of his acting skills, unable to open their eyes and see the performances he gave in films such as "Total Recall" and "Predator" (okay, not really a great performance, but certainly better than one Sly Stallone would give). Hey, he does a lot of muscle flexing in his movies, and the so-called acting in "Hercules in New York" was atrocious, but the guy has an undeniable charm and talent that separates him from Sly and Van Damme and even Willis. To prove his skills were more than just being able to rip off his shirt and shoot people, he took a daring role in "Total Recall" -- a role Patrick Swayze was once signed on to -- and showed that he could play Average Joes. Well, muscular Average Joes.

James Belushi is a funny guy, too, and he is underrated because too many people compare him to his late brother, John, from "Saturday Night Live" and "The Blues Brothers." Well, okay, he's not exactly the same -- but I still think he's very funny and rather good at playing the lazy, under/overwhelmed characters.

Walter Hill, the really bad action director who made a few good films during the 80s, but mostly a bunch of bad, clichéd ones, directed the film. (He also wrote the terrible "Alien3.") He's a good action director, when given the proper material, but he's no James Cameron or John McTiernan or Renny Harlin -- he just borrows from the maestros. In an interview, he claimed that he had wanted to work with Schwarzenegger for a long time, and wanted to make him into a vulnerable, human character for once -- one of the likes that Arnie had never played before. Hmm...didn't he see "Raw Deal"? I guess not.

Walter Hill: Are all the clichés in place? Loose cannon cop who doesn't have a reason to live (check!), straight cop who doesn't take any BS (check!); gruff Chief of Police (check!), eye-rolling sidekick (check!), big explosions (check!), lots of fist-fights (check!), lots of sex and nudity (check!), lots of coarse language like "*Bleep* yo' mamma" (check!), lots of bare muscular chests (check!), a sentimental ending with all the aspirations of being the next "Midnight Run" or "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (check!). Hey, it looks like everything is in place, then! Roll camera!

I own this film on DVD and watch it very rarely. Compared to "Lethal Weapon" or "The Hard Way," this movie is a complete failure. And compared to "The Terminator" or "Total Recall," it ranks as one of Arnie's worst efforts. But hey, it's a lot better than "Batman and Robin." And at least this one is fun -- in its own sort of way.

If it's on TV, give it a go. It has some redeeming qualities, if only a small amount.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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