Raw Deal (1986) – Film Review

raw deal film review bluray

Director: John Irvin
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Darren McGavin, Kathryn Harrold
Certificate: 18

By Roger Crow

Classics like The Terminator movies, the Conan films and Total Recall (‘90) were played on hard rotation in my house back in the day. Raw Deal is one of the few early Schwarzenegger movies that passed me by, until now.

The plot: dishonoured and forcibly retired from the FBI on grounds of excessive brutality, Mark Kaminski (Schwarzenegger) is demoted to Sheriff in a small town, where his wife heads for the bottle while his career goes nowhere.

raw deal film review coverHowever, when the son of old friend Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) is killed while guarding a mob informant against the criminal outfit led by Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker), Kaminski is given a second chance.

“Strangely watchable”

Charged with infiltrating and single-handedly bringing down the mobsters without the protection of the FBI, Kaminski assumes a new identity. He must also resist the temptations of the mysterious Monique (Kathryn Harrold, on good form) and maintain his cover, with eyes on reinstatement and a return to the life that was taken away from him

The Austrian oak plays a crime buster so cool he lights a massive cigar as a perp tries to flee from the authorities early on. Said stogie is thrown on a seemingly normal puddle, but of course it’s flammable and stops the fleeing villain. Hurray for Kaminski.

His domestic life is far from harmonious, but when his boozy trophy wife throws a chocolate cake at him, our hero comes out with the classic “Don’t drink and bake.”

(A shame that clip is never shown on Bake Off.)

It seems Kaminski also has the ability to start any random vehicle just by getting in the door. Witness the moment he drives a pick-up truck into a shop window, gleefully causing carnage.

Raw Deal is basically a series of action set pieces linked together. And oh boy, it’s as stupid as a box of frogs, but strangely watchable.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that chords from The Terminator keep popping up on the soundtrack. And those gags and one-liners; they all land like parachuting elephants.

It’s intriguing to see Robert Davi a few years before playing the arch villain in Licence to Kill, which featured a similar ‘good guy undercover with mobsters’ premise.

The 4K UHD version looks and sounds terrific, and scrubs up pretty well for a 37-year-old movie. Yes, Arnie is still learning the ropes acting-wise; this is four years after playing Conan, and he seems to love dressing up in fancy suits after a few years of loincloths, leather and combat fatigues. Oh and the Chicago locations aren’t bad either.

raw deal film review shwarzenegger

“Bordering on satire”

Just when you think things can’t get any cheesier, a shootout at a graveyard leads to one character’s overlong death scene, and another’s under-stated reaction to his potential demise. “Oh it’s all right,” he remarks like he’s just got an inconvenient paper cut rather than life-threatening wounds.

And then there’s a gloriously stupid scene in a quarry with our hero driving around killing bad guys to the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’. I laughed out loud at the sudden arrival of a digger which stopped Arnie in his tracks.

Following a Casablanca-style finale, the epilogue is a weird close for any action movie, bordering on satire.

It’s one of the most eighties action films you’ll ever see, and a marked departure for director John Irvin, who helmed TV’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy adaptation. It’s also a little on the nose when we see ‘Irvin’ emblazoned across a factory’s highly flammable structure.

A big, daft, weirdly compelling slice of hokum which, in the hands of James Cameron, could have been something really special.

Brains in neutral, settle back and enjoy the madness.

Raw Deal is released on 4K Ultra HD Edition, Blu-Ray and DVD by Studiocanal

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.