Red Heat (1988) dir. Walter Hill
Starring: James Belushi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed O’Ross, Peter Boyle
Most people don’t know Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna but would certainly identify them from the shiny Carlco logo which appeared at the head of some of the best genre pictures of the 80’s and 90’s (‘First Blood’, ‘Terminator 2’, ‘Total Recall’). Kassar and Vajna were successful as producers because they hired some of the best action directors to ever film a gunfight such as James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven and Walter Hill.
Walter Hill in particular was one of the great action auteurs who apprenticed under the great Sam Peckinpah. Hill’s pictures in the late 70’s and early 80’s, ‘The Warriors’, ‘The Driver’, ‘Extreme Prejudice’ mixed western genre sensibilities with modern and mainstream action.
‘Red Heat’ is unfortunately not one of Hill’s best pictures, but has enough of his muscular masculine panache to produce a decent action boner.
The opening sequence is a fun homoerotic suspense sequence inside a Russian bathhouse. Arnold, playing an undercover Russian cop Ivan Danko scoping out for Russian drug dealers, enters the steamy sauna populated by muscle bound Russian lifting weights. Arnold’s no push over and he easily kicks some major ass all over the place.
The key perp, 'Rosta' Rostavili played deliciously by Ed O’Ross, escapes though to the U.S. to complete a huge multi-million dollar deal with some Chicago black Muslim thugs. Danko follows him and connects with local Chicago cops to catch his trail, partnering up with affable but tough detective Art Ridzik (James Belushi).
The culture clash between commie and American produces some decent sight gags, but very little substantial political commentary. The mechanics of the investigation are also rudimentary. Hill goes through the motions of using dirty tactics of threatens violence to witnesses and staking out hookers and brothels to find Rosta.
By Hill’s standards the action scenes are minor and adequate only – none which could rival some of the great heist sequences of ‘Johnny Handsome’, or ‘Extreme Prejudice’, or the chase scenes of ‘The Driver’. Even the buddy comedy dynamic is a pale version of the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte pairing in ’48 Hours.’
The final bus chase through Chicago is the highlight – a preposterous chase sequence indicative of the prevailing attitude of over-the-top carnage in 1980’s action.
“Red Heat” is available on Blu-Ray from Maple Pictures in Canada