There are three kinds of Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks: The classics (Terminator, Predator, Commando, etc.), the comedies (Twins, Junior, Batman and Robin, etc.), and the ones that fall somewhere in between. Raw Deal lands squarely in the latter category.
Arnold plays a disgraced cigar smoking CIA agent named Kaminski who now works as a small town sheriff. After the death of his son, the head of the CIA (Darren McGavin from A Christmas Story) hires Arnold to infiltrate the Chicago Mob and tear it apart from the inside out. First he blows up a warehouse, then he busts up an underground casino, drives a tow truck through an Italian restaurant, and breaks some bones in drag club. When McGavin gets paralyzed, Arnie packs his suitcase to the gills with semi-automatic weapons and goes out for some Austrian fried justice.
Remember that montage in Commando when Arnold gathered his weapons together? Well this one lasts a full two minutes!
Anyway, once Arnold grabs enough guns to singlehandedly arm a South American revolution, he cranks up The Rolling Stones and starts blowing away the Italian scum of the universe.
Okay, so the action isn’t nearly up to par with Total Recall and it isn’t quite as funny as Kindergarten Cop, but it’s still pretty great. If anything, Raw Deal marks the first time in screen history when Arnold actually tried to “act”. If you blink you’ll miss it. It’s the scene where Arnold is mercilessly hounded by his alcoholic wife who throws a birthday cake at him. You may know Arnold from playing musclebound barbarians, indestructible commandos and cyborgs from the future, but trust me; you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Arnold playing a henpecked husband who says things like, “You shouldn’t drink and bake!”
You want to talk dramatic skills, let’s talk dramatic skills. Let’s talk about the incredible ending where the paralyzed McGavin is miraculously able to walk. It’s one of the greatest achievements in Schwarzenegger’s career, if not in the entire history of filmmaking. (“You don’t have to walk! You just have to try like Hell!”) Not many actors can go from mowing down dozens of Mafioso with an assault rifle to PERFORMING CHRIST-LIKE MIRACLES and make it look CONVINCING.
Arnold also gets to flex his English muscles a bit in the scene where he says, “He molested, murdered, and mutilated her!”
If Raw Deal has an Achilles Heel, it’s the lack of a strong villain. Arnold was always at his best when locking horns with a worthy adversary. We’ve seen Arnold tangle with intergalactic alien hunters, liquid metal robots, and psychotic game show killers brandishing flamethrowers, so it comes as a bit of a letdown in Raw Deal when Arnold squares off against… old crusty gangsters. I’m sorry but after seeing Arnold battle a giant snake in Conan, seeing him go against the geezer from Superman IV is a bit anticlimactic.
The pacing also gets particularly sluggish about ¾ of the way through, but Arnold’s unmatched charisma carries the flick. (I especially liked the scene where Arnold gets shot by a bad guy and keeps right on going, which just goes to show that he doesn’t have to play a cyborg from the future in order to get riddled with bullets and not feel it.) There’s also a handful of familiar faces like Ed (Death Wish 3) Lauter, Joe (Sword and the Sorcerer) Regalbuto and Robert (Licence to Kill) Davi sprinkled here and there to help keep you watching.
Like any good Arnold movie, this one is brimming with awesome, highly quotable dialogue, my favorite being, “Who do you think I look like, Dirty Harry?” Thank co-screenwriter Sergio Donati, the man who wrote Screamers, The Chosen and Orca for typing up lines like: “If you’re the best there is, the wheel would’ve never been invented!”, “You know what I like about bedrooms? You can always find a bed in there!”, and “I hope you’re not your mother’s only child!”
Director John Irvin later directed the similarly themed Next of Kin.
AKA: Triple Identity.