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Raw Deal

This lesser-but-still-good Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle came in 1986, a breather between COMMANDO and PREDATOR. It opens with some mobsters shooting up a house where cops are protecting a witness. The first line in the movie is a cop reading a Trivial Pursuits question about how many Oscars John Wayne won. The correct answer is never given, but we get the idea: John Wayne is awesome, we’re not in this for the Oscars, but John Wayne deserved Oscars, and so do we, etc.

(note: Marcel from Brooklyn points out that Wayne did get an Oscar for TRUE GRIT. So I guess RAW DEAL is supposed to be Schwarzenegger’s TRUE GRIT or something. I haven’t looked up if he got an Oscar for it or not.)

The introduction of Schwarzenegger’s character is a classic: he’s in a Jeep in the middle of a high speed chase with a motorcycle cop. He’s chasing the cop. How often do you see somebody chasing a cop? It’s beautiful! Of course it turns out that Schwarzenegger is a small town sheriff and he’s chasing a guy who’s impersonating an officer, but that’s okay. It was clever to start off with that so you don’t know what’s going on. And it’s a good chase.

Raw DealWe learn that Arnold’s character Kaminsky was a New York cop who got busted for beating the hell out of a child rapist or somebody, so he had to leave town and was lucky to get this job. But his wife hates small town life, it’s driving her so nuts that when he comes home from work she’s baking a cake that says “SHIT” on it and throws it at him.

But one of his old pals had a son who was killed in that shootout in the opening scene so he offers Kaminsky reinstatement if he does a secret off the books undercover black ops psych out ninja black magic eastern promisekeeper death wish revenge mission (i.e. fakes his death, slicks his hair back, creates a new identity as a mobster, becomes a big time mob enforcer, and busts them from the inside). And why not? He doesn’t like shit cake.

I have to admit I kind of took Schwarzenegger for granted for a while, and then when he became a politician I lost respect for him and started thinking less of his movies. But it’s not really fair. The truth is other than his comedies and being a Republican and fucking over Lou Ferrigno in PUMPING IRON most of his choices have been good. You might argue he got lucky being THE TERMINATOR, but then there’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN. And TOTAL RECALL. And PREDATOR. And in his early days he did some good ones too. COMMANDO is a great example of the sillier style of ’80s action movie. RAW DEAL is not as consistently entertaining but it is a fun one. I recommend it.

I always enjoy Schwarzenegger playing a regular guy. Nobody seems surprised that a gigantic muscleman with a thick European accent is a smalltown sheriff. His lumberjack shirt makes him fit in. You’d think anybody who met him would remember him, but he’s still able to go undercover. Hmmm… This European muscleman really reminds me of that cop who beat a child rapist to death five years ago. But no, I read in the newspaper that that guy died in a fiery explosion yesterday. Plus, they have different hairstyles.

His method of faking his death is pretty great, by the way. He drives into an oil refinery in his cop car, calls in that he is investigating a break-in there, then lights it on fire and drives out on a motorcycle. The explosion has got to have been half the budget of the movie. The damage he caused must’ve been ten times his salary for the entire five years he was sheriff there. The guy ain’t subtle. Then, in the tradition of Zatoichi and Buford Pusser he starts a big fight in a casino, plays one side against the other, etc. And wears a tank top like John McClane, but two years earlier.

One of the writers is Norman Wexler. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about him but this guy was considered a brilliant writer and script doctor in the ’70s. In 1971 he was nominated for an Oscar for JOE. In 1972 he was arrested for threatening to kill Nixon. In 1974 he was nominated for another Oscar for SERPICO. I don’t know how good a writer Frank Serpico is but he oughta try returning the favor and doing a biopic of Wexler, because that would be interesting.

Wexler’s mental illness was mostly unknown to the public until a guy called Bob Zmuda wrote about him (unnamed) in a biography of Andy Kaufman. Zmuda is the guy played by Paul Giamatti in the movie MAN ON THE MOON and he seems like a guy to spin some tall tales, but I’ve never seen anyone discredit his stories about Wexler. Zmuda claims he worked for three weeks as an assistant to Wexler. His job was to go around with his boss making audio recordings of his activities while playing him tapes of what happened exactly 24 hours earlier as well as music by John Philip Sousa. Wexler would go around barefoot with his feet spray painted black and cause confrontations with people (taking a shit in an airport lobby, paying old ladies to take off their clothes, etc.) in order to record their reactions to extreme situations and later transcribe them to inspire his gritty dialogue. When people got angry or would not do what Wexler wanted them to do Zmuda would open a case full of money and pay them off.

If that was really his method here is some of the dialogue it helped him write:

“You’re under arrest.”
“For what?”
“Impersonating a human being.”

and

“Joseph P. Brenner… what’s the ‘P’ stand for?”
“Pussy.”

Hmm, not that great. Still, if you’re a young writer trying to find your way it couldn’t hurt to try shitting in airport lobbies.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2009 at 7:19 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Raw Deal”

  1. Not the best Arnold-movie ever, but has a few very 80’s and nearly iconic moments. The mentioned opening and HUGE oil-barrel themed explosion, but also the not mentioned “Can’t get no satisfaction” – climax always gave me quite a bit of satisfaction.

  2. Vern, this is why I love ya man.

    I saw RAW DEAL many years ago, and lets just say it didn’t leave much of an impression on me, even for a big Arnold fan like I was at the time.

    But your review makes me want to give it another shot, so thanks. Plus it made me laugh (as you always do.)

    You make a good point about Arnold’s good movies. In the 1980s, the dude had a good knack for picking the right projects for him* from TERMINATOR to COMMANDO to the decent RUNNING MAN and PREDATOR and so on. But sometime in the 1990s, his picking talent went to hell for some reason.

    Thus we get BATMAN & ROBIN, those awful comedies, THE 6TH DAY and yeah you get the point. Arnold’s last good “Arnold Movie” I would say is ERASER. I mean he takes a dumb scene with bad 1996-era CGI gator and make it awesome: “You’re luggage!”

    *=I wouldn’t include CONAN, if because John Milius fought like a bitch in heat to get Arnold. As Milius that great talented right wing nutjob said on that CONAN DVD: “If we didn’t cast Arnold, we would have had to built Conan.”

  3. Always love the Arnold “Suit Up Before Destroying The Bad Guys” scene.

    Kathryn Harrold is smokin’ 80’s hot.

    Vern, the new site looks top notch.

  4. Boy am I glad Vern’s site is back up, and now with comments! Let’s pray this doesn’t turn into another AICN with endless posts about Christian Bale tearing down lights, Danny Glover’s Dickblood, Hulk Hogan Brother, etc…

    Anyway, I love Vern but this review seemed a bit rushed – I’d love to know what he thought about the aforementioned “Satisfaction” scene and the Terminator-esque finale. I can’t believe ANY movie ends with the hero casually machine-gunning Villain#2 THROUGH a door, then shotgunning elderly Villain#1 in the back. THEN dumping Good & Plenty’s on him. Maybe Vern’s onto something – the screenwriter was pulling an Andy Kaufman-esque stunt, purposely giving us an anticlimactic finale, denying us the action movie conventions we wanted to see? (and seriously – WTF is up w/ the final scene in this movie? Arnold is fantastic in it but it’s so ridiculously out of place)

  5. Yeah Neal I gotta apologize, this was a review I never finished a while back and I probaly would’ve had more to say back then but the movie is no longer fresh on my mind. Maybe when I watch it again I will have more to add.

  6. The very last scene of this movie always stuck out for me (Arnie’s motivating his pal to learn to walk again). It’s like they lifted that out of a made for tv true-story movie.

  7. I always loved Raw Deal, the movie Arnold made to close out his deal with DEG. It was also one of those famous ’80s action flicks with a trailer that featured stuff that wasn’t in the released movie like Under Siege. In this case, the famous, “Nobody feeds me a Raw Deal!” line…

  8. Thanks for the Wexler information Vern, I’m gonna’ have to look up more about him.

  9. kinda crappy movie at the time, after all we are talking about the big Arnie who was making Commando, Predator and heading towards Total Recall and his Terminator return).

    But there is something strangely watchable about it. How can you not say good things about a movie that has a trailer that doesn’t even feel it has to show scenes from the movie it is advertising.

    Vern, The revamp is looking good apart from some links (like Dead end drive in) not working. But i’m sure they are just teething troubles.

  10. Good review, Vern! And yeah: Norman Wexler was out of his fucking mind. I’d definitely like to see a biography with Alan Alda as Wexler. He partially inspired Andy Kaufman/Bob Zmuda’s Tony Clifton character too.

  11. Just found this review while trying to find stories about Wexler.
    Also, Raw Deal’s story (not screenplay) was by Donati & Vincenzoni, the guys who wrote The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
    Makes me want to re-watch this one!

  12. You know what’s also a raw deal? That election in Iran. I mean if you’re gonna rig an election, don’t make it so obvious. That said Vern, I’m reminded of when Katherine Harris announced the “winner” in Florida in 2000. Remember that?

    You know what I mean? When people in power know they’re getting away with bullshit, and they don’t even try to hide that fact?

    Sorry I sorta hijacked this thread for that rant, but I had to get that off my chest. I just wonder if that silly government in Tehran has realized that they’ve increased by two-fold Israel bombing them.

  13. Seriously Vern…how can you not mention Arnie popping in a tape of “Cant get no Satisfaction”, cruising (well, maybe speeding) round a scrap yard blowing the shit out of the bad guys?! Classic stuff!! Great review but I rate this and Running Man up there with the big mans best. Nobody is really that hardcore anymore…well Rambo 4 was a throw back and some whilst The Stath is giving it his all.

  14. rewatched Raw Deal and it was awesome stuff, saw it once or twice back in the golden eighties. Didn’t remember none of it at all. But especially after some serious Seagal-studies this was so great stuff. Arnie’s doing here some pre-seagalogistics for sure. Raw Deal is very strong movie with straight-forward traditional action without any scifistuff or plot-twists. Rewatched also Red Heat and Running Man. Raw Deal beats those films easily. I think it beats all of those made after T2 too.

  15. Plus it has one of my favorite Arnie lines: “you should not drink and bake.”

  16. Anyone who thinks Arnie has no range should watch this movie. He’s really funny and likeable as he infiltrates the mob in particularly stylish fashion, but becomes convincingly serious and badass when required. Plus he has a nice suit. Highly underrated performance and an ’80s action gem. In my opinion.

    In summary, go watch RAW DEAL again.

  17. Hey, I get a shoutout in this one! And under my government name, too!

    I think Arnold deserved an Oscar just for correctly pronouncing the line “He molested, murdered, and mutilated her.”

    Well, mostly correctly. Maybe just a Golden Globe, then.

    Also: “You should not drink and bake” got robbed when “I’ll be back” became his catchphrase. That was worth paying a few old ladies to get naked in public.

  18. I love RAW DEAL, and after a recent rewatch it’s interesting to note how it seems to intentionally position Arnie, for the first time, as “Arnie”, the “American” good guy – the Gold’s Gym shirt we spot, the flag on the wall, and the fact he’s that most American of all professions: a sheriff (and driving his jeep along to some good ol’ boy music, too.)

    I know he’d just played Matrix in COMMANDO, but there is no real attempt to localize him in that. He’s Teutonic Man, a force of nature, feeding deer and carrying logs.

    Also, the whole Terminator look is now re-appropriated to his new good guy image, too. There’s even a shot of him on CCTV that echoes a similar shot in Terminator, only this time it’s not cops he’s coming after but a ton of the sort of hoods you just don’t see anymore; I mean, look at the film’s opening – the bad guys are all less than photogenic, shall we say. One of them is clearly morbidly obese. In 1985 that was probably just known as “being hefty.”

    That’s another thing I miss about 80s action films: you were allowed, nay actively encouraged, to be an ugly motherfucker. Happy days. John Irvin would despair at most mainstream action films nowadays. He just wouldn’t fit. His cameo in Raw Deal is essentially an explosion waiting to happen.

    The UK blu ray from a few years ago has what might be a unique extra feature, by the way: an interview with some “film expert” guy who spends the whole time talking about how poor the film is. I’ve never seen an extra like this before or since. It’s not as if he’s making any mind-blowing points about the film – he just kinda slates it. Weird.

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