Schwarzenegger Month: Red Sonja

What a putrid mess. The problem with spending a month watching and reviewing a single movie star’s work is that one inevitably comes across some real dogs. James Dean was never in a bad film, but he had the good fortune to die in a horrible car accident before he could embarrass himself. Poor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was stuck in a contract with Dino De Laurentiis.

Red Sonja is yet another attempt to cash in on the warriors and barbarians adventure genre set in motion by Conan the Barbarian. Since Arnold is in this one, it would make sense to assume he plays Conan. Nope. He does not. He plays Kalidor, so named because, according to the internet (so it must be true), the filmmakers were unable to secure the rights to the Conan character for this film. Huh? It doesn’t matter. For one, Kalidor is not the main character. For another, it’s probably a good thing the Conan name wasn’t sullied with another poor outing.

Anyway, this movie is about Red Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen), not Conan. She’s a master swordsman who survived an attack on her village. She witnessed her parents and just about everyone she knows dies by the sword. She spends the bulk of the film hunting down the evil ruler responsible. If this sounds familiar, that’s because this is exactly how Conan the Barbarian played out. And that wasn’t by accident. If there is one thing De Laurentiis always did well, it was squeezing every last drop of cash out of an idea. In fact, this movie is a bit shameless in that regard.

This film being a transparent cash grab means it leaves a lot to be desired. The costumes are fine and the exterior locations are great, but the acting is some of the worst I have ever seen. I haven’t beheld a cast this uniformly awful since, perhaps, Resident Evil: Retribution. In fact, a couple of the cast members were so atrocious that they have earned admittance to the most exclusive acting fraternity on the internet: The Wet Paper Bag Club, a home here at Missile Test for the worst actors and performances I have ever seen. Past members include Robbi Morgan for her turn in Friday the 13th, and Sienna Guillory for that awful Resident Evil film mentioned above. Joining them is Nielsen, who would be very much at home in a Paul W.S. Anderson flick, and Ernie Reyes, Jr., as the spoiled Prince Tarn.

As bad as Nielsen was, Reyes was a special type of awful. He wasn’t quite a teenager yet. Normally I would be reluctant to induct him into the club. Child actors have always been more miss than hit. The idea of holding someone so young to the same standards as adult actors is not entirely fair, but Reyes was so bad in this movie that thirty seconds after he opened his little mouth I was debating whether or not to just turn this awful movie off and write this review with what I had already seen. I did not do that, but nor could I devote undivided attention to it. So, as I write this, the movie is still playing. Right now Arnold and Red Sonja are having a swordfight that is supposed to be foreplay, and I couldn’t care less.

In story, in acting, and in pacing, this film fails. But it looks fairly decent. So I guess it has that going for it. Red Sonja is a worse cash grab than Alien: Resurrection.