Ha ha, it’s Burl here, neither drinking nor baking, but trying to play catch-up on all the reviews I haven’t written lately! For example, it’s now time to look at a slightly oddball Arnie picture that I rewatched some weeks ago and should have reviewed back then, but didn’t! Anyway, better late than never, ha ha! Today’s picture, Raw Deal, hasn’t survived in the cultural memory banks as well as other Arnies of the era, like Commando or Predator, and perhaps the reason for this is that it’s so resolutely unmemorable, seemingly by design!
But all these attempts to be a normal action-drama upend the narrative and make Raw Deal one of the stranger pictures Arnie made in the 80s! For one thing, he’s given a scene of domestic drama to play, and it comes off more like a skit from Saturday Night Live! Ha ha, that’s the one where his drunken, resentful wife throws a cake at him, and he advises her not to drink and bake!
Ha ha, she’s drunken and resentful because Arnie, who used to be an FBI agent, was forced to resign and become a smalltown sheriff in a place where everybody only talks about agriculture! The scene ends tenderly, with Arnie carrying his passed-out wife to bed and then sipping on a whiskey; but when Arnie’s friend Hyarri comes knocking with tales of Chicago gagsters who must be stopped, the muscleman doesn’t hesitate to fake his own death-by-megaexplosion and take on a new identity in order to embed himself in the Windy City underworld!
From then on he assumes the persona of Florida sharpie “Joseph P. Brenner,” eager to work for badman Patrovita, of the Chicago mafia! Ha ha, perhaps to make up for the fact that, as played by Sam Wanamaker, Patrovita is not a particularly memorable villain, there is a tripartite hierarchy within the mob gang: Patrovita; his right-hand man Rocca (played by Paul “The End of August” Shenar), and Rocca’s right-hand man Max, as essayed by Robert Davi from Wild Thing! Schwarzenegger sports an expensive lifestyle suit and pulls a bit of a Yojimbo, pitting the Patrovita gang against a rival enterprise! He meanwhile keeps in touch with Hyarri (played by the terrific Darren McGavin from Hangar 18 and A Christmas Story) and embarks on a chaste romance with a lady gambler played by Kathryn Harrold from Into the Night! A couple of actors from Lassiter, Ed Lauter and Joe Regalbuto, figure in to all this as well! Ha ha!
Anyway, there’s some action and plenty of gunfire, and a scene in a transvestite bar, but on the whole it seems meant as a step up on the classiness scale for Schwarzenegger: an action-drama rather than the pure action pictures he’d theretofore made his stock-in-trade! They hired a real director for the thing (John Irvin, who brought us Ghost Story) and a big deal crew (Alex “The Keep” Thomson was the cinematographer; Anne V. “In the Line of Fire” Coates the editor)! But, though it has a few good bits of dialogue and some durable if unexciting performances, it’s also rarely exciting or thrilling or funny, features an intolerable musical score and is generally unmemorable! In those ways, and also with the Chicago setting, it reminded me strongly of Next of Kin, ha ha! I give Raw Deal one and a half guys from the dress shop!