Title: Red Heat (1988)
Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Peter Boyle, Ed O’Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon
Watching an action film from director Walter Hill is a special treat for any lover of action films. Hill’s specialty has always been tough dudes who shoot guns, spew one liners and blow things up good. His films are the epitome of testosterone fueled action films. In no decade was this displayed better then in the 80’s where Hill made films like 48 Hrs. (1982), Extreme Prejudice (1987), Johnny Handsome (1989) and the film I’ll be talking about today, Red Heat (1988). His affinity for guns probably comes from his love of Cowboy movies of which he has made a few, in fact, he has said that everyone of his films is a western in one way or another, which explains why there’s so many shootouts in his films. His love for guns and violence is still going strong to this day, his latest action film was called Bullet to the Head (2012)! Unfortunately, that films dismal box office performance (even while starring Stallone himself!) might prove that the time of the violence/gun filled action film is over, a time gone, but not forgotten. Yeah, there was a time when action films filled with violence and blood where king in cinemas! And that time was the 80’s!
In Red Heat Walter Hill collaborated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was making a pretty good name for himself as action film star. When he made Red Heat, Arnold had already made films like The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Predator (1987) and The Running Man (1987), back then audiences just couldn’t get enough of ‘The Governator’. In Red Heat Arnold plays Captain Ivan Danko a Russian police man who comes to the United States looking for Viktor, a Russian drug dealer who’s escaped his country and is trying to establish himself as a drug dealer in the U.S. Danko is asigned to come to America to aprehend Viktor, and when he does so he is assigned to Detective Sargeant Art Ridzik played by James Belushi. Ridzik is a messy dude who breaks the rules as often as possible, but it is now his job to take care of Danko while he is in America. In accordance to buddy cop rule #654, at first Ridzik and Danko don’t get along in the least, but they soon learn they’ll have to work together if they want to stop their mutual enemy and who knows, maybe they'll learn to appreciate each other.
The ‘buddy cop movie’ was alive and kicking back in the 80’s, thanks in no small part to the success of the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies which were huge money makers back in those days. Back in the 80’s these movies strived! Usually in these films, one cop is a ‘by the rules’ type of guy while the other one is the wild card of the two. One is clean the other messy, sometimes they are of different ethnicities or even planets, or a combination of all of these. Sometimes one of the cops is alive and the other one is undead as was the case in Dead Heat (1988). Notable examples of these type of films are Alien Nation (1989), Tango and Cash (1989) and Black Rain (1989), to mention but a few of these films. In Red Heat the funny comes from the combination of having a tight ass Russian cop (Schwarzenegger) team up with a smart ass/loud mouth American cop played by Belushi. Gotta admit the combination worked like magic! There’s this one scene where the chief of police asks Danko how do Russian police men deal with all the stress and Danko replies dryly: “Vodka”. So it’s the differences between these two guys that fuels the comedy. The formula used in Red Heat is nothing new for Hill. In fact, it’s not all that different from Walter Hill’s own 48 Hrs., on that one we have the same basic formula, two extremely different individuals having to work together to achieve a goal.
But aside from the comedy, a good body cop movie should always have good action or else the film risks losing its largely male audience, so does Red Heat deliver in this respect? Hell yeah, it’s Walter Hill at the helm what did you expect? The film starts out with this fight sequence in a Russian bath house, and Arnold kicks the living shit out of some dude while rolling around in the snow half naked. Then we move on to a shootout in the streets of Russia, a couple of more shoot outs when the film shifts to U.S., and finally, the film ends with this spectacular chase sequence through the streets of Chicago involving two Greyhound Buses! Now that scene must have taken a while to shoot because it’s pretty complex and extensive. But speaking about this film partially being shot in Russia, it’s important to note that this was the first American production that shot some scenes in the famed Red Square. The story behind that is that the Russian cultural department didn't give them the permission to shoot there (actually they never even replied the request) so they just took a very small crew, dressed Arnold up as a Russian cop and shot the thing as if it was some sort of amateur film being made. The results are pretty cool and add authenticity to the scenes.
Red Heat is a film that comments on the slowly evolving sentiments between both countries. Here we have a film with a Russian coming to America; so we have one of the “Reds” among the Americans, and here’s what’s interesting about everything, he’s the good guy in the film! If you remember correctly, the Russians used to be the “bad guys”! Red Heat shows us that the way Americans were seeing Russians was starting to shift, the Russians were no longer the bad guys because during the last half of the 80’s, treaties were being signed between both countries that would put an end to the cold war, so in a way the film is a reflection of this new ideology that was on the horizon; in a couple of years, the Russians wouldnt be the enemies anymore. Soon the hatred would shift towards Saddam Hussein, and later towards Osama Bin Laden. Same as in Orwell’s 1984, the government keeps shifting their countries hatred towards something different; the importance being to always keep the profitable (for them anyways) state of war. Yes my friends, Red Heat is another film that reflects the realities of our lives. But I don’t want to make it sound like this film is all political; this is actually a very fun buddy cop film filled with action, comedy and lots of shoot outs, Walter Hill style! It won’t change your life, but it will entertain you for a while.
Rating: 4 out of 5