Fox // 1986 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 20th, 2004
His trigger finger has all the answers.
Meet Mark Kaminsky (Arnold Schwarzenegger), an ex-FBI agent ejected from the bureau in disgrace and now sheriff to a small town. When one of Kaminsky's old pals from the FBI (Darren McGavin, A Christmas Story), whose son was killed by mobsters, contacts him with an opportunity for reinstatement, Mark jumps at the chance. The assignment: infiltrate a Chicago Mafia family and destroy it. The 'family' is run by Petrovita (Sam Wanamaker, Baby Boom) and a batch of goons, including one of Petrovita's deadly hired hands, Max (Robert Davi, The Goonies), and a bunch of other thugs you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. Kaminsky, faking his own death, becomes Joseph P. Brenner, a high-class criminal who's able to convince the Mafia he's really one of them. Once inside, Joseph / Mark gains trust, discovers hidden family secrets, and in a final bloody showdown, puts an end to Petrovita's reign of terror and corruption.
One of Schwarzenegger's lesser efforts, Raw Deal is a convoluted, run-of-the-mill action flick that doesn't bring anything new to the table. By 1986, the 'Govenator' (my one and only Arnold / Governor joke) had made an impact in James Cameron's The Terminator, the Conan the Barbarian films, and little else. In between becoming one of Hollywood's leading action staples (the hit alien flick Predator would follow only a short year later), Schwarzenegger made a movie that, fittingly, seems to be ranked as one of his worst. Raw Deal sports a screenplay that meshes dozens of other films, all of them far better. There's hardly an original bone in Raw Deal's beefy body. The plot is straightforward and simplistic: Arnold must infiltrate the mob, become one of them, and wipe them off the Chicago map. Had screenwriters Gary DeVore and Norman Wexlar injected a bit more flair and wit into the story, this could have been a fun little ride. Sadly, aside from a few mildly humorous lines uttered by Schwarzenegger in his usual monosyllabic tone, Raw Deal sputters along on nothing but fumes and some heavy gunfire that tries to cover up the fact that none of this is much fun.
Director John Irvin (City of Industry) keeps things clicking along, but what does it matter when the story and its characters have nowhere to go? Arnold spends most of the time with his hair slicked back -- looking like Sly Stallone's younger brother -Ð while driving around in his car shooting at everything with a heartbeat. Subplots and periphery characters are mostly shoved aside, including Mark's wife Amy, who shows up drunk in the opening of the film and subsequently disappears, never to be seen again.
On the other hand, Raw Deal did feature a lot of bad guys in dark sunglasses and moustaches being shot, and on the level of pure machismo the film works decently. I'm sure there are fans looking for two hours of senseless violence punctuated by Arnold flexing his biceps. They'll find it in Raw Deal, but little else.
Raw Deal is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Anchor Bay released this film years ago on DVD. While I don't know much about that release, my guess is this newly restored anamorphic transfer is surely what fans of the film were praying for. Fox has done a good job of making sure the colors and black levels are all spot on and well rendered. There is a small amount of grain, though it's never overly intrusive while watching the film. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround, as well as a newly remixed 5.1 track in English. I can hardly say I was impressed with this 5.1 remix. Aside from a handful of weak directional effects, this doesn't sound any different than the included 2.0 track. Then again, dialogue, effects, and music are all clearly heard, and that's what counts. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
You want extra features? I don't think so, buddy. Arnold's been busy putting California back together, so my guess is he didn't have time to record a commentary track. Then again, do you really have any burning questions you want answered about the making of Raw Deal? I didn't think so.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R