Lionsgate // 1988 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 2nd, 2011
"I am not s -- -- ing on you."
Red Heat is a movie I've long been angling to see. Schwarzenegger with a bitchin' flattop, Jim Belushi as a wiseass cop, explosions in the background -- all the makings of a delightful '80s action romp. Too bad the fall of Communism made it absolutely pointless.
Captain Ivan Dranko (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator) is a fast riser in the Soviet police. His primary antagonist is a dangerous Georgian drug-runner who murdered his best friend and fled to Chicago. The USSR dispatches Dranko to retrieve the bad guy and (through a series of oddball circumstance) ends up paired with tough-talking Sergeant Art Ridzik (Jim Belushi, According to Jim).
One's an ice-cold, emotionless commie; the other a flabby, foul-mouthed capitalist dog. Together they'll find a common bond between their warring governing philosophies and settle on that most unifying of philosophies: winners don't do drugs.
Red Heat is a film that somehow managed to elude my Macho '80s Action Flick net. Schwarzenegger as a badass Soviet tearing Chicago up? How does that not rule? Fate smiled on me when it became available for review, so I jumped all over it.
Unfortunately, like the Bolshevik Revolution, the hype does not match the final product. Red Heat is a relic, an action film that draws much of its juice from a conflict of styles: the icy Soviet and the brash American, teaming up to find glasnost and beat the living Hell out of a scumbag Georgian (FU Georgia!).
The humor is sourced in a clash of cultures, as Belushi's Ridzik strives to understand the Soviet mindset, while staring slack-jawed at his Russian partner's inability to comprehend American slang, and then chortling at him with condescending glee when he inevitably butchers his attempts at the vernacular.
Oh, by the way, Schwarzenegger is totally The Terminator here. I can't absolutely verify that fact because no one peeled away the skin from his forearm, but for all intents and purposes he's the same character; monotone delivery, emotionless killing, and high-larious mangling of popular American idioms.
The most unimpressive aspect of Red Heat is the mayhem. Too bad director Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) couldn't lift some of the action sensibilities from James Cameron's films. You've got some gunplay, followed by a few R-rated squib shots and a bus chase. That's it. Even the bus finale is lacking; brief, poorly constructed, and involves two big ass, slow city buses. Worse, the Final Bad Guy Death -- usually a sterling element in any Schwarzenegger action film -- is a waste.
Lionsgate serves up an adequate Blu-ray, headlined by a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that ups the resolution a moderate amount. While certainly cleaner than its SD brethren, the production fails to measure up to stronger HD catalog releases. Clarity may be sharper, but the film still looks dated, USSR references or not. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is lively and loud, though the overwrought gunshot and punch effects elicit snorts. Extras: three recycled featurettes and a mostly unwatchable original making-of TV special.
I'm happy for the oppressed people of the Eastern Bloc. Really, I am. But the dissolution of their state has rendered Red Heat moot.
Guilty. Into the dustbin of history you go.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* TV Special