Saturday, February 4, 2012
Red Scorpion (1989)
What can I say, it was the 80's!
This is a joyless Rambo knock-off with a truly annoying performance from M. Emmett Walsh (who I usually love) as a Russkie-hating reporter. Tom Savini contributes some nice gore effects, Brion James pops up as a villain and the finale is okay with plenty of gun play and lots of admittedly well-done explosions, the only problem is that you have to sit through the first 90 minutes to get to it. The only other notable thing is that it was produced and co-written (the story at least) by noted disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Yes, that one.
Red Scorpion was one of dozens of Cold War exploitation films to come out during the decade. You had Stallone in Rocky IV and Rambo III; Invasion U.S.A., the Iron Eagle movies. Hell, you could even make an argument that Top Gun falls into that category.
The film is well directed by Joe Zito who also gave us Invasion U.S.A., Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and The Prowler. He does fine here as usual and, like most of his films, the direction is not the problem. It's the script and overall trite characterizations.
Red Scorpion falls in near the bottom of the pile in terms of its sub genre as it portrays the Russians as not just bad guys, but the most evil, loathsome creatures you could possibly imagine. I'm not certain but I think that the portrayal of Russians here may be almost as bad as the usual depiction of Arabs in action movies.
Oddly enough, for some inexplicable reason, the lone American character (Walsh's reporter) is equally loathsome which is weird to see in a movie ostensibly trumpeting the virtues of freedom and, ostensibly, being an American (never mind the lead character is Russian and probably is more pissed that his own team is trying to kill him than anything politically motivated).
So, at the end of the day, you have an action movie with pretty much no likable good guys, bland villains (even Brion James fails to make much of an impression unlike his turn in Tango & Cash), a really dumb plot (Dolph's bosses seem to assign him to a mission and then make sure he doesn't have the chance to succeed before they turn on him), no humor to speak of and lots of mindless action.
I've always felt that checking politics at the door before watching an 80's action movie is important if you want to enjoy it and this is a prime example why. More specifically, it serves as an exception as even if you do set politics aside (which is hard when the film is bashing you in the head with them), you still have a less than enjoyable experience.. The film is silly propaganda wrapped up in some good old fashioned ultra-violence with some great explosions and long stretches of nothing in between the action. It's really bad, especially when compared with Invasion U.S.A. which had the advantage of a sense of humor (unintentional yes, but it was still there) and Richard Lynch as the villain.
And when you fail to live up to the quality of a Chuck Norris movie...Damn!