Dir: Walter Hill, 1988
By 1988, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the undisputed king of action movies. It’s worth remembering that Sylvester Stallone had made some clunkers with his non-action films such as Over The Top.
Red Heat allowed the former Mr. universe to display more of his acting chops rather than just muscle (although, there is still plenty of that).
Russian police captain Ivan Danko (Schwarzenegger) travels to Chicago to apprehend high profile Georgian cocaine dealer and murderer, Viktor Rostavili (Ed O’Ross).
On arrival, he is escorted by Detective Sergeant Art Ridzik (James Belushi) but after Rostavili is sprung, the two unlikely partners ruffle feathers and turn Chicago upside down to bring the Georgian to justice.
Continuing the trend of buddy movies, Red Heat is an action comedy much in the same vein as director Hill’s earlier 48 HRS; two chalk and cheese characters are forced to spend time together.
Whereas the Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte vehicle was billed primarily as a comedy, this outing is more action based with injections of comedy, courtesy of Belushi as the wisecracking cynical slob.
However, the brother of the late John Belushi doesn’t fit the film. The cracks aren’t wise, nor or are they particularly funny, aside from the odd quip. Belushi is a fair actor in his own right, but an action film isn’t suited to him.
Red Heat could have been a much more successful film had it been played as a straight action movie. The scenes are there and the Austrian Oak delivers what’s needed but the comedy and Belushi’s presence unbalance the piece as a whole.
Amusingly, the film has a reputation for being slightly homoerotic. Opening in a Russian spa/baths/sauna/gymnasium or whatever, director Hill treats the audience to lingering close-up’s of heavily muscled men, Arnie’s bare arse and two blokes wrestling in the snow! Even the computer game, released for the Commodore Amiga got in on the act:
Maybe it’s just me, but…seriously?!
In all fairness, they’re only minor quibbles as the film is enjoyable and Schwarzenegger supplies plenty of entertainment, although his Russian accent is a bit suspect.
Fun, but unoriginal, Red Heat offers a pleasurable, if not forgettable, ride that is worth your time.