Ask someone to name their top ten Arnie films, and I suspect you’d be hard pressed to find many who would name ‘Raw Deal’, a largely forgotten 1986 oddity in Schwarzenegger’s back catalogue. Sandwiched between two of his iconic 80s classics (Commando and Predator), this over-stuffed mob thriller directed by John Irvin was a critical and commercial flop on release, and hasn’t fared any better over time.
The film sees Schwarzenegger as disgraced FBI agent Mark Kaminski, now working as a small-town sheriff. When a ruthless mobster carries out a hit on an informant, one of the cops caught in the crossfire is the son of Kaminski’s former FBI boss, Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin). Distraught, Shannon hires Kaminski for an off-the-books undercover assignment, promising him a return to the FBI if he brings down Chicago’s top-dog gangster Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker).
Kaminski accepts, ditching his alcoholic wife without a second thought, faking his death in a chemical plant explosion, and then assumes the identity of a known felon from Miami called Joseph Brenner. Now posing as Brenner he ingratiates himself to Patrovita by taking down a rival’s business, but some of the capos in Patrovita’s organisation are suspicious of this new guy on the block.
Impressively remastered in a crisp new 4K print, ‘Raw Deal’ is a cynical retread of the ‘Commando’ one-man-army formula. Unfortunately, it is weighed down by an abundance of plot, and a desperate lack of the wit, charisma, lightness of touch, and knowing humour that makes ‘Commando’ such a blast. It even tries to redo the famous “tooling-up” montage and gets it all wrong.
It’s a film that fundamentally fails to play to Schwarzenegger’s strengths, and is all the weaker as a result. At this early point of his career, he could do two things extremely well: be a formidable physical presence, and deliver zinger one-liners. ‘Raw Deal’ makes little to no use of either, and lumbers him with a three-pronged character – former Fed, small-town sheriff, mob enforcer – and he is laughably unconvincing as all three.
John Irvin and his team of writers go out of their way to make what should be a simple undercover cop story, needlessly complicated. It doesn’t work as a thriller as you know that from the casting of Arnie what it’s all going to lead to, so none of the attempts at “who’s the rat?” tension are in any way tense. Thankfully, in between all of the tedious exposition and terrible dialogue, there’s enough explosions and gunfire to keep you mildly entertained.
If you were hoping that this new 4K UHD release would come with a selection of terrific new special features, prepare yourself for even more disappointment. The disc comes with two short featurettes, which have been ported over from a previous 2010 release. The first is a documentary about Arnie’s early career, featuring contributions from a few journalists, and some of his lesser-known filmmaking collaborators. The second is an odd little programme featuring Schwarzenegger biographer Dave Saunders explaining why the film you’ve just watched isn’t very good. Well, I could have told you that.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Wanamaker, Kathryn Harrold, Darren McGavin, Robert Davi Director: John Irvin Writer: Gary De Vore & Norman Wexler Released By: StudioCanal Certificate: 18 Duration: 105 mins Release Date: 24th October 2022