Review for Raw Deal
I can’t believe we’ve already reached the point that lower-mid-tier Arnie movies are getting the 4k UHD treatment (good for us HD luddites that can take advantage of 4k masters for updated Blu-rays). You have the classics like Terminator, Total Recall, and Predator, then there are the go to Arnie movies like Commando, The Running Man, and Kindergarten Cop. At the bottom of course there is Batman and Robin, but lurking above that are the Arnie movies like Red Sonja and The 6th Day that never quite cut the mustard. That’s where Raw Deal comes in, a film that is perfectly watchable, but somehow was never good enough to get an 8-bit computer game conversion.
But still, it’s good that Studiocanal are revisiting Raw Deal. Back in the 2000s, they picked up a whole lot of films from companies like Carolco and Orion, companies behind the biggest blockbusters of my adolescence, but which never quite made the distance when it comes to longevity. They really treated these back catalogue action classics as disposable, ‘get them out quick’ cash grabs, usually coming on barebones discs, with lacklustre transfers. The last few years, Studiocanal have embraced the UHD format, and have gone back to some of those titles and given them the restoration that they deserved in the first place. Let’s see if Raw Deal is one of those deserving titles...
When the mafia kills Harry Shannon’s son, Harry swears revenge. Blair Shannon was part of an FBI team that was protecting a key witness in the Patrovita trial, and it’s Patrovita that ordered the hit. The trouble is that there is a mole in the FBI, someone is leaking key information to Patrovita’s group and anyone who tries to get close is wasted. Harry needs help from outside the bureau. Mark Kaminsky was an FBI agent, until he was forced to resign for getting a little physical with a suspect. Now working as a Sheriff in a small town, he’s practically in exile. Old friend Harry offers a chance at redemption. He wants Mark’s help in destroying Patrovita’s operation. So Mark fakes his own death, greases back his hair, and goes undercover as a small time criminal looking to move up in the world. When he gets involved in a gang war that is developing between Patrovita and his rival Lamanski, he’s on the fast track to Patrovita’s inner circle.
Raw Deal gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this Blu-ray, with the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, and PCM 2.0 Stereo English and French, and as well as a PCM 2.0 Mono German track, with subtitles in English, French and German. Raw Deal and Red Heat had a lot in common when it came to their DVD releases, in that both were rather drab and grey in tone. Red Heat on Blu-ray found a far more pleasing balance, which retained the colour palette, but offered much more in the way of vibrancy and detail. Raw Deal on the other hand pushes it a little too far, making any spark of colour in its overall drabness really pop a little too much for my taste, no doubt a legacy of the HDR coding of the UHD. Otherwise the film looks excellent when it comes to detail and clarity, while maintaining the natural level of film grain that you would hope for. I opted for the original stereo mix, which is punchy and effective enough, even if the music has the tendency to overwhelm the dialogue. The surround mix is pretty good too, not overcooked and obvious to my hearing.
You have the choice between English, French, and German static menus when you insert the disc. You get the following extra features.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Man Who Raised Hollywood (16:15)
Raw Deal – A Generic Gangster Film (8:56)
Original Theatrical Trailer (1:30)
When Optimum released the DVD of Raw Deal, the transfer was pretty good for DVD, but the disc was so barebones that it didn’t even have subtitles. A lot of the initial back catalogue titles that went to Blu-ray used the same transfers as the DVDs, but Raw Deal has had a whole new restoration. A screen of text attesting to that pops up before the film starts playing, as well as the now standard ‘historical attitudes’ disclaimer that Studiocanal put in front of any film that they release more than ten years old. Raw Deal on this disc is certainly worthy of an HD presentation, while the extra features may be short, but they are worth watching, and certainly better than the nothing that we had before. But...
Scarface it ain’t! Think Commando versus the Mafia and you’ll know exactly what to expect from this film. This time he’s a former FBI agent, and the wrong he has to avenge is the death of his friend’s son (it isn’t exactly as pressing as a kidnapped daughter though), so once again he drops everything and heads off to take on the villains. It’s the same path to action orgasm. We get 90 minutes of foreplay, where he takes on various heavies in minor confrontations, and then, after a gratuitous lock and load montage set to a rock soundtrack (it was combat gear and black eyeliner in Commando, here it’s leather and automatic weapons), he goes on the rampage trying to up the body count world record, and loads of extras get to do the dance of death while being riddled with bullets. And along the way, with get some of the worst one-liners ever committed to celluloid, “Don’t drink and bake!” indeed…
I guess the quality of his cast members marks the progression in his career. Rae Dawn Chong may have been entertaining eye-candy, Dan Hedaya a scenery-chewing villain, but Vernon Wells was as camp as Christmas as Bennett. Here we get Darren McGavin as his mentor Shannon, Robert Davi as a mafia hood who sees competition in Arnie, and even though Sam Wanamaker is obviously slumming it as Patrovita, he’s still a class act. There is definitely a development in terms of quality visible.
But I don’t like Raw Deal as much, primarily because it is practically a remake, but also because it doesn’t feel as much fun. It’s betwixt and between, uncertain if it is an out and out cheese-fest or if there is something more to it than the comedy mafia replete with clichés and stereotypes. While practically every other Arnie movie that I have enjoyed has its talking points and memorable moments, awesome stunts or landmark excretions of dialogue, all that I come away from Raw Deal with is that Arnie smokes a cigar like a hyperthyroid George Burns. Say goodnight Gracie…