This movie is Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cusp. After Conan and The Terminator, people knew who he was, he was a legitimate star, and this earned him more roles. But he was still making movies for Dino De Laurentiis. That man was a producing legend, but not always for the best reasons. For every Blue Velvet or Serpico, there were about five or six Maximum Overdrives. De Laurentiis movies look cheap, like the filmmakers that made them didn’t have the cash they needed, or weren’t competent filmmakers in the first place. Raw Deal was the last De Laurentiis film with Arnold to hit theaters, and Arnold was probably glad about that.
Raw Deal opens with promise, I have to say. A group of gangsters has arrived in an unnamed city and assaults an FBI safe house, killing a snitch in witness protection, and all the agents guarding him. It’s a promising scene, but also displays the rank ridiculousness that ends up typifying the film. It’s the little things, really. It didn’t look like anyone in this scene had firearms training (the standout: the guy firing the Uzi with his left hand with the stock pressed into his right shoulder). That may not be something many viewers would notice, but it shows early on that director John Irvin wasn’t interested in putting in the extra work to make his film better.
What follows is a descent into 1980s cop movie cliché. Whether this is because the film is derivative or groundbreaking in the subgenre, I do not know, nor do I care to find out. But, as soon as Darren McGavin appears as an FBI chief, I flashed immediately to one of the Rainier Wolfcastle spoofs on The Simpsons.
McGavin’s son was one of the FBI agents who was killed in the shootout with the mob. McGavin wants revenge, but he has to go outside the system for it. He enlists the help of disgraced former agent Mark Kaminsky (Arnold). Kaminsky was thrown out of the FBI for beating up one of his prisoners, but it’s okay. As Kaminsky explains, the suspect had kidnapped a little girl, raped her, killed her, and mutilated her. Gasp! In any other movie that would be horrible, but in this, it amounts to a ham-handed attempt to show that the main character is a standup dude, even if he doesn’t feel like bothering with something as trivial as the Constitution. Dirty Harry did it better. But Dirty Harry didn’t do cheese nearly as well.
Kaminsky has to infiltrate the Chicago mob to carry out his mission. The way he does this is by being the most annoying prick in the world. Everywhere he goes in the windy city he kicks ass and breaks stuff. But it works. He gets in with the bad guys.
By this time, if a viewer is still paying attention to this movie, then they have a much more resilient shitty movie tolerance than this reviewer. Raw Deal is just boilerplate ’80s action. There’s little thought put into the story or the characters. Being from the mid ’80s, it also plays like an episode of Miami Vice, with a touch of Road House added on for good measure. In fact, as I was watching this movie, I thought about how awesome it would have been if Arnold had starred in Road House. I don’t want to disparage Patrick Swayze, but looking back, the idea of Arnold busting heads all over Missouri with Sam Elliott — my goodness, I get all tingly just thinking about it. Now there was a cheesy ’80s action flick that is worth my time. This piece of shit, however, was not.
Raw Deal is a worse movie than Alien: Resurrection.