1986 - R - 97 Mins.
|Director: John Irvin
|Producer: Martha Schumacher
|Written By: Gary DeVore and Norman Wexler
|Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harold, Darren McGavin, Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar
|Review by: John Ulmer
Its tagline: "The system gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal."
Get me out of this movie - NOW!
It seems that the only system that gave him a raw deal was HBO, a company stupid enough to produce this mess in the first place.
I've stumbled upon websites before that specifically review really bad movies, in an apparent effort to stand out amongst the horde of general film sites, and I think that "Raw Deal" could definitely be considered fair game for such areas of the Internet. We have Arnold Schwarzenegger in a cheap HBO-produced follow-up to "Commando," a movie that was dumb but knew how to have fun. "Raw Deal" doesn't know how to have much fun at all - the good parts come late in the film, and even then we're laughing more than smiling - a sign of stupidity versus amusement.
I must confess that I'm a big fan of Ah-nuld, the Austrian Oak from "Pumping Iron," the secret agent from "True Lies," the adventure-seeking Doug Quaid from "Total Recall" and, of course, the Terminator. This is one of his lesser roles, as Kaminski, a mild-mannered husband who is sent on a vigilante mission into Mob territory. I found this movie sitting on the shack of a local video store and decided that it couldn't be that bad. After all, it was Arnold.
Three years later I watch it again and it seems to stink just as much, if not even more.
The beginning setup is amusing in a, "oh my gosh, that's really terrible" sort of way. An unknown witness protection agent is shot at point blank range by a few Mafia thugs who are primarily interested in murdering an informant, cowering in the next room, aware of his death. In the hands of a better director this opening open sequence could have been an unforeseen go-for-the-throat attack. Imagine if "Speed" had been directed by a man with no skill - the opening sequence in the elevator shaft could have been mind-numbingly bad. I have a firm belief that even the stupidest of movies can be entertaining, and perhaps even great, if helmed by an individual who understands the material and realizes how to successfully translate it to screen. What separates "Star Wars" from the other post-"2001" star-age light-speed low-budget movies? Inevitably George Lucas's excitement towards the material - let's face it, for the most part the acting is only so-so (there's a reason that Mark Hamill has gotten little work since), the screenplay and premise is thin and recycled, and the special effects are outdated by today's standards. Yet it still manages to affect many viewers. Why? Because before George Lucas became a one-hit sell-out, he knew how to direct. That's unfortunately absent in the recent "Star Wars" movies. Critics have been blaming the weak writing and poor acting, but they might as well criticize the original trilogy (only one installment of which Lucas directed). It's just that there's no excitement in the new "Star Wars" movies. They're not thrilling and there's a vital undercurrent missing that powered the first three films - a sort of general enthusiasm for the material that lacks in the new prequel trilogy.
"Raw Deal" is little more than an excuse for the murdered agent's father to ask Ah-nuld to hunt down the Mafia kingpin who ordered the hit. Arnold has a "witchy" wife and his job as a cop is going nowhere. He agrees to stage his own death (falsely of course) and then create a new identity for himself, crawl into the center of the Mafia family, and "take out" the infamous kingpin. The movie's final shoot-out is dry and not very satisfying. At the very least, when I sat down to watch "Raw Deal," I expected a lean, mean, guy's action movie - no brains, just lots of explosions, flying bullets, broken noses and shattered ribs. The director can't even handle these sequences well - and Lord knows they were done very amusing, if not silly, in "Commando," which is everything that "Raw Deal" wants to be: not a great action movie but a simple flick for guys who like to switch off their brains and watch things go boom.
Arnold's appeal, I think - and what separates him from the come-and-go action stars such as Seagal and Van Damme and even Stallone - is his powerful screen presence, his charisma, and most of all, his lenient nature towards his films. As far as action stars go, Arnold isn't' that bad of an actor (see "Total Recall" for proof), but his accent makes him sound "silly," and he tends to play along with this, winking at the camera, not minding to poke fun at his own screen presence with projects such as "Last Action Hero" (a brilliant and underrated film satire that I suppose you must be a buff to appreciate). In "Raw Deal" he is truly wasted. The movie was filmed during the rise of his career - "The Terminator" made him an overnight Hollywood superstar, and his career continued to flourish for quite some time thereafter. In between "Terminator" and "Predator" (1987), Arnold did make a few forgettable projects. Unfortunately, "Raw Deal" is one of those movies.