|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 29 September 1998|
Raw Deal is one of those movies that Arnold Schwarzenegger made while trying to find his real screen image. Traces of the Arnold to come are found in this routine but entertaining action movie -- as well as signs of where the action movie was heading: into anthologies of increasingly huge and unlikely set pieces, with the story and characterization of less and less concern.
Arnold is at his best when his standard character has an edge of humor -- he's less appealing in out-and-out comedies. In an odd scene in Raw Deal, for example, he has an argument with his drunken wife, who ends up throwing a cake at him. Arnold sternly tells her "You should not drink and bake." Also, for all his slaughter of hundreds in his various movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger endorses family and home; here, his tough investigator, working undercover in the Chicago mob, is sorely tempted by Kathryn Harrold, but ends up returning to his wife.
The script by Gary M. Devore and Norman Wexler is very straightforward and uncomplicated, the only surprise element being who the mob's secret informant is -- and then it's hardly a surprise at all. We meet small-town sheriff Arnold during a brief, amusing chase, and soon learn he was a big-deal FBI agent who was fired for brutality. But his old boss, Darren McGavin, turns up to ask him to infiltrate the mob on a personal mission: they've just killed McGavin's son, also an agent.
And that's what Arnold does, step by step. No mysteries, no surprises, but John Irvin's slick direction keeps things moving, and it's fun, at this point in his career, to see Arnold wearing fancy Italian suits in the kind of movie that his later Last Action Hero spoofed in its elephantine manner. There are the requisite fistfights, shootouts and car chases, most of which start at Chapter 20 and continue until the end of the movie. The two most memorable are when, having been found out, Arnold outfits himself with an arsenal, jumps into his convertible, cranks up the Stones' "Satisfaction" to ear-splitting levels, and charges into the mob's gravel factory, blazing away with very big guns (and never getting a scratch). The subsequent shootout back at the mob's gleaming gray-and-silver headquarters is almost anti-climactic.
The supporting cast is as sleek as the rest of the movie; Sam Wanamaker is both brutal and elegant as the big boss, and Robert Davi edgy and cruel as his second in command, who Arnold goes out of his way to antagonize. It's interesting, and a bit amusing, to see Steven Hill, the model of justice on "Law and Order," as a vicious criminal, Wanamaker's big rival.
Though this is just a blip in Schwarzenegger's career, it's a reasonably entertaining action thriller, another of the satisfying, if odd, schedule of releases from the estimable Anchor Bay Entertainment. Too bad they weren't able to come up with any extra features, but this isn't the sort of movie that really deserves them.