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Overall Rating
2.88

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 41.67%
Just Average: 8.33%
Pretty Crappy45.83%
Sucks: 4.17%

2 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Raw Deal
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Decent-Enough 'Deal'"
4 stars

Did rather lackluster box-office business at the time, but over the years it's gotten some of the respect it deserved back in the day.

Raw Deal isn't nearly as energetic and colorful as Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous picture, the smashingly entertaining Commando, but it's perfectly entertaining stuff if you're in the right mood. Directed by John Irvin of the outstanding action-adventure The Dogs of War and the quaint Harold Pinter-scripted comedy-drama Turtle Diary, Raw Deal is an action movie, yes, but it also functions as a sly black comedy, with the humor springing out from the unlikeliest places (you have to keep your ears open, for a lot of the amusing throwaway lines come from characters in the background). Rather than a loin-clothed barbarian or futuristic cyborg or ex-Special Forces military man, Schwarzenegger, with his usual thick-as-pea-soup Austrian accent, plays Mark Kaminski, an ex-FBI agent eking out an uneventful existence as sheriff in a small North Carolina town; after being forced to resign from the Bureau for excessive brutality against a child killer, he's been "in exile" for the last five years, with unchallenging police work and a frustrated, unhappy wife at home -- when she drunkenly throws a profanity-iced cake at him, he says, "You shouldn't drink and bake." But he gets a chance at reinstatement when an old Bureau buddy, Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin), comes to town unofficially enlisting his help: his twenty-seven-year old FBI son has been killed in the line of duty at a safe house while protecting a government witness who could have forever put away the head of Chicago's strongest crime family, Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wannamaker); there's an informer in the Bureau, and Mark's mission is to infiltrate Patrovita's organization, "tear it up," and identify the corrupt informant. That's it for the story. It's "Arnie vs. the Mafia!" The screenplay by Gary DeVore (Running Scared) and Norman Wexler (Saturday Night Fever) adheres to a familiar structure, and there isn't a single surprising plot development to be found, but one of the things we're not prepared for, in addition to the consistent humor, are the vivid supporting characters: Patrovita's right-hand man Rocca (Paul Shenar), Rocca's lethal henchman Max (Robert Davi), Max's ex-flame Monique (Kathryn Harrold) who becomes romantically infatuated with Mark, Patrovita's rival Hammer Lamonski (Steven Hill), and determined federal prosecutor Marvin Baxter (Joe Regalbuto). All are played by first-rate actors who manage to lend some gravitas to the proceedings and help camouflage just how paper-thin and contrived the material is -- window dressing in the very best sense. Yet Schwarzenegger, an appealing but limited talent, manages to hold his own in their company through sheer confidence as a screen performer (though his mush-mouthed mauling of the line "He molested, murdered and mutilated her" will make you cringe).

The movie is phenomenally well-controlled, with each and every scene staged and designed with intelligence, but I'm not sure Irvin's overall handling pays off in the ways intended. Commando was sometimes crudely made, but it had real storytelling propulsion -- it didn't offer the audience so much as a second's downtime to contemplate whether it made a bit of sense. With Raw Deal, perhaps too much "class" has been imparted onto the proceedings: the visuals are too richly textured for such generic material (cinematographer Alex Thomson gives us "film" rather than "movie" lighting); the scenes fleshing out the secondary characters could've been shaved by half (though the cast is so good we don't mind spending time with them); and a precision-timed safecracking sequence not involving Schwarzenegger temporarily throws things out of whack (we're just not that interested in it). And Irvin's handling of the extras is as abysmal as I've seen: they're overly animated, like figures in a pop-up book; your attention is always being drawn to them, which just isn't supposed to happen with extras. And yet the movie, for all its faults, is impressive. Oscar-winning editor Anne V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia) displays her customary adroitness, the production design offers up some unexpected novel touches, the dialogue is more than par for the course, and the active sound design is uncommonly inventive. There's even something of a genuine emotional payoff in the final scene between Mark and a recently-handicapped Harry. Ed Lauter, as a determined city policeman, gets off some tasty lines; Davi, whose combination of suavity and viciousness is understatedly hypnotic, operates on a weirdly winning wavelength that's all his own; Wanamaker's infusion of egotism into his Armani-dressed central villain makes him very difficult to despise; and there's Schwarzenegger, perfectly comfortable with both the humor as well as the action, giving us a star-vehicle performance refreshingly devoid of smugness. Oh, one can carp on the overall logicality of the piece what with Mark accomplishing in the end (blowing everybody away) what he could have managed at least an hour earlier into the movie's running time. Some of the throwaway details are unnervingly off (if there's a point in having bystanders in a downtown shopping mall not noticing a man having been thrown through a glass door, it escaped me). And a potentially interesting scene where Mark, having been taken on as one of Patrovita's henchmen, is ordered to shoot down a cop is disappointingly flubbed (he pauses only because the man with his back turned to him turns out to be Harry; but what if it hadn't been Harry but another cop?). Still, through about seventy percent of its ninety-seven-minute running time, Raw Deal delivers the goods.

The DVD has been through three different editions, none of them a special-edition, though.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9235&reviewer=327
originally posted: 06/26/13 10:00:06
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User Comments

6/04/10 Ronald Holst It reminded Me more of the Governator than anything elece . 2 stars
5/14/10 Sugarfoot I always found this to be a guilty pleasure. It's a Dolph Lundgren flick that stars Arnold 3 stars
9/13/09 Jeff Wilder Ill advised attempt at playing a serious dramatic role that didn't work. 2 stars
1/19/08 Pamela White the action is greatbut te plot is iffy 3 stars
1/09/07 Stefan Halka Touching ending, but the film is pretty dull overall. 2 stars
5/18/06 Uk_shooter classic action movie at its best 4 stars
5/12/06 ES uninspired and forgettable 2 stars
4/11/06 chris f quite a good film 4 stars
1/25/06 JM Synth A higher budget (?, better looking anyway) Commando. Not as funny, but easier to watch 4 stars
9/14/05 R.W. Welch Arnold before he had the formula down. Don't bother. 2 stars
8/09/04 McGraw Raw sewage 1 stars
4/08/04 Jack Sommersby Works better as a sly black comedy than an actioner. A real kick if you're in the mood. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  06-Jun-1986 (R)

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