Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, April 19, 2015


Sandwiched between “Commando” and “Predator,” genuine Arnold classics, is “Raw Deal.” Arnold made the movie just to get out of a contract with Italian mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis, which would have had him starring in “Conan the Barbarian” sequels until the end of time. De Laurentiis, in turn, made the movie just to make a quick buck, in order to fund his long gestating adaptation of “Total Recall.” Though Arnold was still a huge star in 1986, the movie didn’t make much of an impact on the box office. For these reasons and more, the film is a frequently overlooked entry in the action star’s filmography.

Mark Kaminsky is a former FBI agent who got the shaft after brutalizing a murderer-molester-mutilator. Placed in Witness Protection, he now holds down a lame job as a small town sheriff, much to the chagrin of his alcoholic baker wife. Meanwhile, an FBI agent’s son is killed during a mob shoot-out. The agent, Harry Shannon, wants revenge. He makes a deal with Kaminsky. He can leave his boring life in exchange for infiltrating the mob of crime boss Luigi Patrovita, bringing it down from the inside. This plan works out fine for a while… Until Kaminsky is found out, forcing him to pick up a bunch of guns and put down a bunch of scumbags.

The first half of “Raw Deal” is devoted to the absolute joys of Arnold being an asshole mob enforcer. Okay, I should say most of it is. The very beginning of “Raw Deal” is devoted to the absolute joys of Arnold being a small town sheriff. There are rogue motorcyclists to catch and cakes to be thrown. Once inside the mob, Arnie spends time trading verbal barbs with Robert Davi and Sam Wanamaker. In order to get the mob’s attention, he wrecks a crooked gambling establishment, flipping tables, cracking one-liners, and tossing people into the ceiling. The rivalry between Davi and Schwarzenegger is especially amusing, the two actors engaging in an extended pissing match. When brought into what appears to be a gay bar, Arnie slams a guy across the dressing room wall, splattering him with red paint. A car chase proves exciting, with cars nearly slamming into walls and zipping around corners.

However, there’s a serious problem with “Raw Deal.” While infiltrating the mob, Kaminsky makes the acquaintance of Monique, a desperate lady gambler. Monique is frequently low on cash and often seems at the mercy of Davi’s character Keller, her sometimes lover. Kaminsky and Monique have an immediate back-and-forth and “Raw Deal” actually makes decent use of Arnold’s charms as a romantic lead. The scene where they return to her home and get drunk, leading to Arnold passing out before they can get any further, is actually quite charming. However, the love triangle between Keller, Mark, and Monique eventually drags the film down into melodrama. The scene where Kaminsky nearly blows his cover so he can talk to the girl is especially eye-rolling.

In time, “Raw Deal” stops fucking around and gets to what all we want to see. Mark’s cover is blown when the gangsters target Harry Shannon, accidentally. In most movies, a mob informant having his true identity revealed would force him to go on the run. In a Schwarzenegger movie, it’s the star’s cue to go on a goddamn rampage. Arnie loads up with guns and ammo. He rides a white sports car into one of the mob’s hideouts, a rock quarry, the Stones’ “Satisfaction” blaring on the radio. Shooting from the window, he guns down numerous goons, their bodies rolling down hills and into rock grinders. The scene has an unexpected end, Arnold smashing the car into a bulldozer. Done there, he heads into the bad guy’s lair, guns blazing, blasting numerous suited mafiosos. My favorite moment here is when a guy attempts to shoot around a corner at Arnie, which causes him to squint his eyes in confusion. After taking out the main baddie, Schwarzenegger pours a bowl of jelly beans on his bodies. There’s no pithy one-liner needed.

“Raw Deal” also benefits from a pretty strong supporting cast. Darren McGavin, wearing a rare mustache, plays Shannon. After a bomb inside a soda machine explodes, McGavin investigates, trading amusing small talk with the local cops. Harry gets shot but it doesn’t slow him down much. At the end of the film, Kaminsky is trying to help Harry recover from his wounds and learn to walk again. Here it is, two of my favorite actors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Darren McGavin, John Matrix and Carl Kolchak, sharing screen time together, yelling at each other. Glorious. The film also packs in prime Robert Davi and Ed Lautner.

“Raw Deal” is not the most memorable of Schwarzenegger vehicles. The plot is relatively generic, the villains aren’t that interesting, and the film doesn’t have any distinguishing gimmicks. However, at the end of the day, who can resist the simple joys of watching Arnie gun down dozens of people? Better yet, when it has him making deadpan comments about cakes or yelling encouragement to Kolchak? “Raw Deal” has its pleasures. As far as mid-tier Schwarzenegger movies go, it works just fine for me. [7/10]

[X] Performs Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[X] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[X] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm

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