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RAW DEAL

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Darren McGavin, San Wanamaker, Paul Shenar, Steven Hill, Ed Lauter, Blanche Baker
Director: John Irvin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: None
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2004

“You should not drink and bake.”

Film *** (On the Cheese Scale)

Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka the Governor of "Kulli-fornia", is now embroiled in the world of politics, it probably won't be too soon before many of us keep forgetting that he was at one point the larger than life muscleman of the action movie. More than that, I'm sure that most people fail to recall the early films in Ah-nuld's career.

You'll recall, no pun intended, that in the mid 80s, Schwarzenegger's movies basically followed a running theme, one that didn't even apply to the basic action releases. The thought-provoking plotlines involved Arnold's character getting in way over his head, after which he suits up with enough weaponry to satisfy three bloodthirsty commandos, and blows away a bunch of bad guys for the remaining 45 minutes. And shall we even begin to forget the most crowning moment of each movie where Arnold utters an over the top, but nonetheless funny, one liner (the quote above is quite honestly one of Schwarzenegger's funniest line readings of all time)?

This formula was given a rather serious introduction with The Terminator, and Schwarznegger's follow up, 1985's Commando brought the formula to life with flying colors, and up until the end of the 80s, each of Arnold's movies pretty much followed the same structure, and the strange thing is, it never got boring. Raw Deal, which by now is actually one of Arnold's least remembered movies, is a grand example of the aforementioned formula. It must be noted that the movie was released in 1986, where this made for the pitch perfect Schwarzenegger vehicle. Today, it plays like a gleefully, excessively cheesy over the top actioner, and it's just as good to view it in that light.

As for the plot synopsis, it's a challenge for the mind…get ready to think a little. Ah-nuld is Mark Kaminsky, an ex-FBI agent who was (big plot twist coming) wrongfully thrown out of the bureau, and is now serving as the sheriff of a small town in North Carolina (WHAT??!!). His wife is a round-the-clock alcoholic that makes his life miserable, even though he promises to make a better life for her. It goes without saying that the sight of seeing an early Schwarzenegger playing the long-suffering husband is a sight for the eyes if there ever was one.

Then Kaminsky gets an unexpected call from his former boss, Shannon (Darren McGavin), who requests his help in off the record FBI matter. Shannon's son was viciously gunned down by members of a Chicago mob family, and he wants his former top field agent to go undercover. Mind you, he isn't given orders to take the mob guys down, but Shannon knows with Kaminsky on the case, all of the Mafiosos will eventually get blown away, which is what Shannon wants as revenge. Gosh, if only all movies could be as complete and realistic as this. This is genius screenwriting in its purest form.

As you can tell, I've pretty much been ultra-sarcastic about the movie, but in actuality, I'm somewhat praising it's cheesy qualities. If you've never seen this one, and you start watching it expecting an engaging quality similar to the likes of the Terminator series, True Lies, and even some of Arnold's more underrated movies like The 6th Day, look elsewhere. This is classic 80s mindless action at its unapologetic best. I truly believe that it is useless to take a movie like this seriously, especially with a scene where Arnold, getting ready to take out some bad guys in an Oldsmobile, takes a brief pause so that he can put in a cassette tape in the car stereo of “I Can't Get No Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

The bottom line is this; movies like this will never make it to the big screen in this day and age, since ones like this are usually reserved for debuts on the video market. To watch something like Raw Deal in 2004 is to appreciate it for its sheer over the top qualities, like nearly all of the action movies of the 80s. It's early cornball Schwarzenegger entertainment at its all time best.

Video **1/2

When I heard that Fox was going to be releasing this title, I completely forgot that it had been released on DVD before, compliments of Anchor Bay. I never saw the earlier version and therefore can't make a basic comparison, but I can say that Fox has done a decent enough job on the anamorphic transfer, though by no means is the quality of earth-shattering sharpness. There are a few instances of image softness, and the detail of the overall picture seems to travel in and out at some points, but for the most part the presentation is very much satisfying.

Audio ***

From what I've gathered, the previous offering from Anchor Bay didn't include a 5.1 mix, so on that note, Fox gets extra props for upping the ante in the audio department. The action is executed in ultra-raw mode, as the endless supply of ammo is rendered in superb sharp-sounding form. Dialogue, Arnold's included, is perfectly delivered, and music playback is nicely done as well.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Raw Deal is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most overlooked films to date, though the reasons I enjoy it may as well be the same reasons why so many deem it kind of forgettable. It boldly and unapologetically throws away plot, character, logic, and trades it for Arnold's priceless accent and long-lasting rounds of ammo.