Shortly after the masterpiece that is Commando, Arnie took a nose-dive in this silly movie about an FBI agent who’s now a sheriff in a podunk little town just because he roughed up a suspect too harshly. You believe that shit? Now he’s stuck wearing a flannel shirt and chasing guys in his Jeep, instead of wearing a suit in Chicago, where his wife would rather be. It starts off well enough, with Schwarzenegger chasing a guy impersonating a motorcycle cop through cornfields, a junkyard, and a construction site. You can see a brute like Arnold in a lumberjack outfit driving a Jeep. A cornfed farm boy playing a small town cop, sure. How does he stop the guy? He sets him on fire. We begin to see why he was demoted from Federal agent. When he threw the book at a suspect, he probably shoved the Encyclopedia Britannica up the guy’s ass.
When people compare Commando to Stallone’s inferior Cobra, I get so emotional, baby. There is no comparison; Commando transcends stupidity and becomes art; it knows how ridiculous it is and embraces it like a long-lost sibling, which it then uses as a human shield to stop a hail of bullets, saw blades, axes and table legs. Unfortunately, Raw Deal has no wry Austrian grin on its face; we get one amazing set piece, but the rest is way too serious. Arnie hiding behind things for cover? What could shield his enormous physique?
We leave Hazzard County for Chicago when Arnie’s old boss, Darren McGavin– Kolchak the Night Stalker; the Old Man from A Christmas Story— approaches him after a mob witness and all the Feds guarding him are slaughtered. He wants Arnie to infiltrate the Chicago mob and find the traitor who sold them out. That should be easy enough- a 250lb Austrian superman blends right in! After showing us his painful home life, with a bitchy wife who throws a “SHIT” cake at him, he fakes his own death with a marvelous, subtle plan. He parks his squad car at a gas refinery, which he then blows up. A baptism of fire. He is reborn, a new man, unrecognizable because now… he slicks his hair back like an Italian mobster.
He plows into Chicago by beating up mobsters running high-stakes gambling houses full of rich folks in sleazy neighborhoods they’d never step foot into (Chicago boy Ebert found that especially amusing). He ices the shitcake by driving a tow truck through the building. Eventually a beleaguered mob boss hires him as muscle, since he’s in the middle of a war. They hire a degenerate gambler broad named Monique to snoop on him, and she tries to get him into bed, but in post-’85 movie fashion, the only boobies we see are Arnold’s. And I think they’re bigger than hers anyway.
The next half hour is full of silly shootouts and car chases as the mob fights it out; there’s a decent heist with a fake bomb squad, but nothing too memorable. For some reason, they decide to put a hit on McGavin, and make Arnie do it- but of course, he shoots the other mob hitters instead. McGavin is gravely wounded, and this gives Arnold the inspiration to root out the traitor HIS way.. by killing all the mobsters until he finds the guy. Process of elimination!
This leads to the movie’s most memorable scene, which involves Schwarzenegger driving through a huge construction site in a Riviera convertible, shooting an H&K to “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” by the Rolling Stones. It’s a great set piece, having him duel an earth mover and a dump truck, but unfortunately it fizzles out because the mob boss is elsewhere. Arnie suits up in a leather jacket with a bevy of guns, reminiscent of his famous role as The Terminator, but as he works his way up through the boss’s high rise, it’s not very exciting. Shoot, shoot, dodge. Shoot shoot shoot. He doesn’t throw anyone out a window, or drop a mini-bar on anyone, or anything fun like that. Arnie does what he can with the script, but it gives him few chances to be the sardonic smart-ass we’d love in and Commando and Running Man.
His buddy Sven-Ole Thorson from Conan the Barbarian shows up as a bearded thug, but they just shoot each other instead of brawling across the gleaming ’80s decor. He finds the traitor because he’s the only one left alive, cowering in a corner. I wish all police work was this easy! Turns out he’s the balding weasel from “Murphy Brown,” and he executes him in typical non-Arnie fashion, by tossing him a gun and waiting for him to pull it on him. He gave you a RAW DEAL, Arnie! Just shove a cocktail shaker through his heart and throw him off the top of the Hancock Building or something! The closest he comes to is when he kills the mob boss; he dumps a bowl of pills, which look like Good ‘n Plenty candies, on his corpse. But he doesn’t say a thing!
After Arnie’s obliterated every bad guy, he stumbles back to Darren McGavin’s hospital room. The guy needs to learn how to walk again, and he’s struggling. Arnie is supposed to encourage him, but he knows how silly this scene is. He’s grinning the entire time, trying not to laugh at McGavin’s earnest attempt at making this an emotional scene. It really bears watching, not only to see the effortless skill of a talented character actor, but also Arnie’s evil grin as he calls him a girly-man for being a cripple.
You know who gets the raw deal? We do. Just remember: You should not drink and bake.
P.S. not to be confused with the good film noir by Anthony Mann from 1948!
P.P.S. Also contains the most horrifying pleasure trail outside of a werewolf movie:
Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? Straight to DVD
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: Medium-Sharp
High Points: I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Low Point: the whole middle of the movie
Gratuitous Boobies: Just Arnold’s mega-moobs