a critiQal film review Raw Deal (1986)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: FBI Chief Harry Shannon (McGavin), whose son has been killed by a mobster named Patrovita (Wanamaker), enlists Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) - an ex-FBI agent now working as a small town sheriff - in a personal vendetta with a promise of reinstatement into the FBI if Patrovita is taken down.

557 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 47s)

Looking for an action picture, I scrolled through our NetFlix® instant queue…and stumbled across a few films from that action hero of the 80’s himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. While he may be guv’ner now, he used to be a mega action star, and I have fun memories of watching him waste the bad guys willy nilly in films like Commando (1985) and Predator (1987).

Thinking I was going back earlier than that, I picked Raw Deal – and soon discovered the film may look low-budget, but it wasn’t at the start of his career – in fact, it was 2 years after his big role in The Terminator (1984)!

Still, would Arnie’s foray into low-budget pictures be worth checking out once more, or was I in for a (pun intended) Raw Deal?

While the film may reek of low production values, Arnie’s got all his signature moves down pat for this one. Smoking those cigars he’s always favored, and generally knockin’ ’em dead (literally) with a barrage of weapons, Arnie’s in his element for this one. Still, there seems to be something missing with his performance in Raw Deal. Despite the fact he would never win an award for his acting prowess, he’s still usually able to involve the audience with his character right from the start, and gives the audience the action-packed sequences they’ve come to expect from him.

In Raw Deal, the action-packed sequences are there, but he just doesn’t seem to have his heart in the role. Maybe what’s off is the timing of the famous one-liners he’s known for. Usually, right in the thick of things, he manages to utter a clever line or two that gets the audience going. With Raw Deal, those lines are uttered between action sequences, rather than right in the heat of things, making Arnie’s character seem a bit…well, slow on the uptake.

And, while the action sequences are decent enough, the production values seem incredibly low. With their attention already distracted from the action by the bad lighting or uninteresting camera angles, the viewer starts to notice the smaller stuff – the way his enemies ham it up during their few minutes of fame (ie…their death sequences); the way Arnie doesn’t have anyone really entertaining to go up against, instead wiping out members of a Chicago gang whose leader is as uninteresting as they are; how easy it is for Arnie to break through supposedly an entire mob of hitmen by hitting only two locations, etc.

While most of the film is spent with Arnold infiltrating the Chicago mob, the big action sequences viewers are looking for in a Schwarzenegger movie are few and far between. Instead, the viewer has to be satisfied with little things, like Arnold beating up on the same couple of guys over and over again.

Aside from a drive-thru casino remodeling Arnold does near the beginning of the film, he just never really seems to get into his character in Raw Deal – and if the actor doesn’t embrace the character, the viewer won’t. Couple that with the low production values and the pointless storyline that’s been played out so many times before and since, and Raw Deal doesn’t come off as a shining example of Arnold at his best.

Mindless action should be entertaining – and sometimes, Raw Deal forgets that.

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