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Red Heat

movie reviewmovie review out of 4


*Also starring: Peter Boyle, Ed O'Ross, Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Bright, Oleg Vidov



Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

Few years before the collapse of Berlin Wall, words like "glasnost" and "perestroika" went into fashion, replacing the old Cold War rhetoric. Gorbachov's irresistible charm, mistaken by many as a proof of statesman's abilities, was responsible for Soviets not being considered as threat any more. Hollywood also fell in line, and its movies broke the ideological taboos of the early Reagan years by portraying the Evil Empire as something that the West at least can learn to live by. One of those films is RED HEAT, police thriller by veteran action director Walter Hill, made in 1988. An year later the collapse of the Wall and fall of the Communist governments in Europe would make such movies obsolete; in few years Hollywood screenwriters would again start turning Russians into obligatory Commie villains.

The movie protagonist and the main good guy is, ironically, one of such big bad Commies, Captain Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger) of the Moscow Militia. He is huge, muscular, deadly and extremely dedicated to his job of protecting the people and the state from anti-social elements. One of such elements is a Georgian criminal Viktor Rostaveli (Ed O'Ross), who uses the new openness in Moscow to supply the city youth with cocaine smuggled from the West. Danko tries to arrest Rostaveli, but he escapes, killing Danko's partner in the process. Few months later, word comes that the Chicago Police arrested Rostaveli on a petty charge. Danko is sent to America in order to bring him home and meets wisecracking Chicago Detective Sergeant Art Ridzik (James Belushi). The routine extradition, however, turns into bloody mess and Rostaveli escapes again, this time killing Ridzik's partner. Two policemen must now overcome their mutual distrust and cultural and ideological differences in order to bring the criminal to justice.

Apart from its, at the time logical, "high concept" idea, RED HEAT doesn't offer anything especially new or original in the action movie genre. Walter Hill probably lost his inspiration at that time, and apart from few changes, the movie's plot is very much like his earlier and much more celebrated work 48 HRS - combination of "buddy buddy" and "outsider must prove himself" motives of numerous cop movies in last few decades. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Walter Hill, Harry Kleiner and Troy Kennedy Martin doesn't live to its expectations; "buddy buddy" dynamic is destroyed by turning the two main leads into one-dimensional stereotypes. The actors are also not very inspired, and the contrast between the fanatical, silent and almost robotic Schwarzenegger (who, on the other hand, learned all of his Russian lines in order to make his character authentic) and wisecracking and impulsive Belushi seems over-emphasised. Action scenes are superbly directed, although some of them, like the last chase between two buses, looks a little bit deja vu. Quantity and quality of humour, necessary for this type of movies, is also bellow the expectations, although Hill uses this story to tell us one ironic, yet disturbing truth. Throughout the film, Captain Danko uses every opportunity to point the efficiency of Soviet police that provides public security without ever having to bother with such petty concepts like civil liberties and legal procedure. After a while, Ridzik also concurs with such basically totalitarian ideas, probably seeing the great similarity with the concepts practically advocated in movies about Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey.

Copyright 1998 Dragan Antulov

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