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  Raw Deal Unoriginal Gangsters
Year: 1986
Director: John Irvin
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Darren McGavin, Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar, Steven Hill, Joe Regalbuto, Robert Davi, Ed Lauter, Mordecai Lawner, Blanche Baker, Louise Robey, Victor Argo, George P. Wilbur, Denver Mattson, Leon Rippy
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mark Kaminsky (Arnold Schwarzenegger) used to be an FBI man, but after he was drawn into accusations of corruption on trumped up charges he was forced to leave his post and take up another one in a smalltown police department. This entails him, for example, chasing down a lowlife pretending to be a traffic cop to amass on the spot fines by pursuing him across half the county, and although he does get his man he stil feels that this is pretty small beer as far as crimefighting goes. His wife is even less impressed, and when he returns home he finds her in the middle of a breakdown, but what if there was an undercover job for him?

Because you can't keep Schwarzenegger sidelined for long, after all, even if a Walking Tall style of action thriller might have suited him quite well at this stage in his career. Raw Deal was a film he made for Dino De Laurentiis, and like a lot of that producer's output in the eighties could best have been described as generic when it wasn't aiming for the blockbuster stratosphere. As it was, this didn't reach those heights, and in the eighties heyday of its star is often forgotten about completely, if not simply neglected - watching it now you can see why. There's little here that could not have been handled by any number of also-rans in the action hero second division.

British director John Irvin took the reins, fresh off his minor success in Turtle Diary, and a more crunching gear change could not have occured; only in this decade, it would seem. Otherwise there was not much to distinguish it, and it could have fit into a cop show of the day as a feature length episode if it were not for the overpowering charisma of Schwarzenegger. Well, that's what some would tell you, yet if you were watching this with no prior knowledge of the celebrity, you'd be wondering who it was in the movie business who had lost their heads and placed an obvious amateur at the heart of a slick flick with a bit more cash behind it than the usual direct to video effort.

Though that's what Raw Deal resembles, and Arnold's one-liners fall flat; to be fair they are used sparingly as if the producers noticed he wasn't exactly a muscleman Bob Hope at this point, and if he rarely got any better at delivering the zingers it could be that we had gotten used to his distinctive style later on. The plot places him in a situation where nobody questions his thick Austrian accent, that's right, as a Mafia gangster, why he fits that role like a glove, as Kaminsky fakes his death to goes undercover for his old boss Darren McGavin, who is grief-stricken at the death of his son at the hands of these evildoers. There's a touch of Yojimbo about what happens next, with Kaminsky encouraging a conflict between two rival gangs.

But not so much that the film becomes all that interesting, and after a while the frequent breaks to explain what is going on and who is doing what to whom and for what reason amongst the characters doesn't half make it all drag. That's not to say there are not bursts of activity when Kaminsky gets to grips with his arsenal and starts with the shootiebangs, but if the best they could do to liven up a ho-hum bit of gunplay is to have the star driving around in an open-topped car while blasting out The Rolling Stones then it pales in comparison with some of Arnold's better setpieces, although they do end it with his vehicle being crushed betwixt two ginormous lorries, so that's something. There is love interest too, in the shape of moll Kathryn Harrold, but as Kaminsky is already married nothing happens aside from the chance to recreate the ending of Casablanca with a big bag of money standing in for Paul Henreid. So as you can see, it's none too surprising that Raw Deal has been forgotten, although Arnie looks quite the yuppie in it with his sharp suits and slicked back hair.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Irvin  (1940 - )

British director whose television credits included classic spy drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He then moved into films, alternating between Britain and Hollywood with The Dogs of War, Ghost Story, Turtle Diary, Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Raw Deal, Hamburger Hill, Next of Kin, City of Industry and Shiner, amongst others.

 
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