All the spooky festivies are over so now back into the bitchin groove that is Mindless Action Mondays
This week I watch the Cold War commentary movie Red Heat
starring Jim Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger
That’s right ladies and gentlemen: we’re going back to the 80’s
Governor Schwarzenegger plays Captain Ivan Danko, a Moscow police officer on the trail of a drug dealer who flees to Chicago. Schwarzenegger follows him there and reluctantly teams up with Art Ridzik (Jim Belushi) to take him down after Belushi’s partner is killed by the drug lord.
Sounds like your standard buddy-cop film with a nice foreign twist, right?
Not so fast, comrade.
This is a 1988 movie; not exactly the hottest time of the Cold War (see what I did there? That’s why they pay me the big bucks), but we weren’t on the friendliest of terms with The Soviet Union either- this is prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Red Heat is the first American movie ever allowed to be filmed in the Soviet Union. This was a huge step in political relations.
The film also is very surprisingly light on the Russian stereotypes, despite being played by Arnold, Danko doesn’t feel silly or stupid. The Russians aren’t crazy like Yakov Smirnov or cold like Ivan Drago. It is some of the most authentically honest portrayals of Ruskies I have ever seen in films.
One of the coolest things in the film is that when the Russians are talking (basically the first quarter of the movie is set exclusively in Russia), they talk in actual Russian- no English subtitles or anything. I find it really cool that they did it that way. And you know what? You don’t need the English subtitles, just from the tone and emotion you are clued in to the gist of what they’re saying.
God help me, guys. I think I honestly liked the movie.
The scenes set in Russia were actually filmed there. Red Heat is one of the only films (and the first American movie) to be allowed to film in the Red Square- which is right near the Kremlin, the Russian White House. Shit, kids! We don’t let American films shoot outside our White House!
Also on the subject of the Motherland:
I feel like Russia has to be beautiful in some places- with all that land there HAS to be. But it always looks so goddamn gloomy.
I think that the Belushi-Schwarzenegger duo actually kind of works in the film. They don’t get along with each other well, they don’t really ever get over their culture barrier, but neither side is better than the other- both Americans and Soviets are pictured as kind of shitty and racist but hard-working and dedicated- and they never really become friends, they solve their case and just go their separate ways. It’s really refreshing to see this- especially in the 1980’s. It’s actually more like a deconstruction of the foreign buddy-cop films (see: Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, Captain and Tennille).
Alright, maybe not those two.
Now I never saw Jim Belushi’s show “According to Jim” (nobody else did either) but he is very markedly different from his brother John (of SNL and Animal House fame). He is a delightful dead-pan snarker and very bitterly cynical- but it adds a lot to a character that could have just as easily become a trite cliched American detective.
Being that this is a 1980’s action movie there are various moments where you just shake your head and bemoan the ten years in human history where we just dropped the culture ball:
Wait a second. What the hell is the color of that suit? That’s Gumby’s color.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is wearing a Gumby Costume.
Actually, I’d watch the SHIT out of a gritty Gumby reboot starring Arnold. I’d watch it twice. Which is more than I can say for Red Heat.
As ridiculous as Arnie is as a Russian, he’s actually pretty subdued in his performance when compared to the rest of his 80’s catalog.
There’s a lot of fast-paced, tense dramatic action in the film. Danko is investigating this sleazy motel where he gets attacked by random black men.
There’s this very intense part where Arnold’s hiding in one of the motel rooms (with a very surprised hooker), the bad guys grow ever nearer to him when suddenly his watch’s alarm goes off! Arnold then has to shoot his way through 6 dudes with 6 shots (he actually ends up firing about 10. I chalk it up to Soviet magic) and the hooker even helps kill the last guy as he was getting the drop on Danko. Way to go, hooker, now get back to your cripplingly depressing life.
Jim Belushi, despite seeming like the relegated comic relief actually holds his own in most of the action. Except the film’s climactic Greyhound Bus chase. Danko chases down the drug kingpin who has commandeered a bus… with another bus. It’s like the movie Speed except not with Sanrda Bullock (a large improvement). The two buses even play chicken later on before one of them crashes and the other gets hit by a train. During which we are treated to LITERALLY 5 whole minutes of just Arnold screaming.
Yes, this was a silly part of an otherwise well put together movie, but it wasn’t TOO silly. It was just 1980’s silly.
Over all, I suppose I’d recommend Red Heat. It’s fairly decent film. It’s not a hilarious, zany romp. Red Heat isn’t a good movie. But it was actually surprising in its merit. I don’t know if I’d tell you to check it out, it’s not something that I’d sit through again. But I don’t regret watching it, which is more than I can say for many 80’s movies.
Join me next week as I review the heavily underrated movie Hitman starring one of my massive man crushes: Timothy Olyphant
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