During the 80’s, action films were one of Hollywood’s top box office draws. From Lethal Weapon to Rambo to Commando, these cinematic vehicles dominated. Carnage, testosterone and muscles were the mix along with catch phrases that filtered the culture.
During the time, I was an action film junkie, but also a bit of a snob. The films of Van Damme and Segal always felt less than the exploits of Stallone and Norris.
Above all of them was Arnold Schwarzenegger. The future Governor of California always provided a satisfying experience. Even when Stallone fumbled with “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot”, Arnold consistently delivered. So, when I was given the opportunity to view RED HEAT, I was ready. Somehow, I missed this action gem when it was released in 1988.
The premise is simple. Arnold plays a Russian policeman who must travel to Chicago to apprehend a Georgian drug lord who killed his partner and fled the country.
Of course, when Arnold arrives he must team up with a Chicago Police detective (Jim Belushi) who doesn’t play by the rules. The odd couple spend the film learning from each other while chasing the baddie through an escalating count of bodies.
The surprise here is that the coupling of Schwarzenegger and Belushi really compliments each other. Arnold plays the stoic Captain Danko with reserve and a dignity and allows Belushi to play the laughs.
Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors), RED HEAT is a really good action film. It falls within 48 Hours territory. The musical score, provided by the amazing James Horner, is one of his best. The script allows for some great interplay between the two cops, and the action is thrilling, including a bus chase through Chicago.
Jim Belushi is a strong foil for Arnold, and the two complement each other well. As the Russian baddie, Ed O’Ross (Full Metal Jacket) sneers and shoots his way through with a perfect amount of evil glee.
The supporting cast are all strong, including a young Laurence Fishburne as a fellow Chicago police detective, Peter Boyle as the perfect hard-nosed Police Boss and Gina Gershon in one of her first featured roles as a young dancer who falls prey to American greed.
RED HEAT is not only a nostalgic view of culture from the late 80’s, it is a really satisfying action film with strong performances.
One historical note: RED HEAT was the first commercial American film to stage scenes in Moscow’s Red Square.
RED HEAT is now available for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack as well as Blu-ray and Digital. RED HEAT is rated R.