Review: Raw Deal

Raw Deal original HBO/CANNON VIDEO VHS

Directed by: John Irvin
Category: Badass Cinema

This was one of Schwarzenegger's early films that I never really gave too much credit. My main beef is that I just can't help but feel how Schwarzenegger was just horribly miscast here. Especially when you consider the film he made the year before this was Commando, and the film after this was Predator. It just doesn't make any sense. It feels so wrong for him and the kind of films he was trying to do. You have to also consider at this time he was going head to head with Stallone and both of them were the two biggest action stars of the decade and to have this oddly out of place film smack in the middle of his one-two punch of Commando and Predator, well it just feels oddly out of place in his filmography.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad film by any means. It just doesn't feel like an Arnold picture. This seems like it would have been more suited for someone like Burt Reynolds. Now that I think about it, he would have been perfect for this role because at the time this film was made, he wasn't exactly knocking them out of the park anymore and probably could've used modest hit. In either case, Arnold does the best he can with the role and even though he looks and sounds completely out of place in this Italian mob world. The main thing the big guy has going for him is an amazing aura of confidence. He might be miscast in this film, but he's gonna give it his all anyway and the film's all the more entertaining for it.

Mark Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) is a small town backwoods country sheriff after being kicked out of the FBI for improper treatment of a suspect. When his old friend and FBI chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) asks for his help after his son is killed by the Italian Mob in a botched raid, he promises Mark re-enlistment into the bureau if he can infiltrate the Italian mob and take down everyone that had anything to do with his son's death. For Harry, it's all about revenge. For Mark, it's a chance to get his old job back and a chance for him and his wife to get out of the sticks where they clearly don't belong. 

More than anything, this is a crime drama/action film that only offers any real action here and there. We're introduced to a bloody shootout and a car chase right from the get go, but it's a while before any other type of action comes into play and when it does, it's a few fist fights here and there and a pretty cool car chase later on. It's not until the last 20 minutes or so where we're given two big action sequences but even then, they pale in comparison to any of his other films from this era. Also, during one of these big action sequences towards the end of the film, Mark aka Joseph P. Brenner takes down a bunch of guys at a gravel pit while he's simultaneously driving his car and shooting at guys a hundred yards away, but not before he pops in The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction" into his tape player. I don't know, that seemed like such a weird song choice for a big action scene and for me, just didn't work.

The system gave him a Raw Deal. Nobody gives him a Raw Deal.

One of things I'll always remember about this film is that I saw this at my local drive-in theater back in '86. I remember that they showed a trailer for Stallone's Cobra before this film and I remember thinking that I couldn't wait for that film to come out. Just one of those random thoughts that pop into my head whenever I think of this film.

Thankfully, Arnold is given a really solid supporting cast to flesh out the Italian mob world. The always reliable Robert Davi has a pretty big role as mafia heavy who he's forced to work with under head mob boss Luigi Patrovita's orders, and they do not get along. Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story) is great as Mark's FBI mentor, friend and cohort Harry Shannon and Kathryn Harrold does a good enough job as the seductress who you can never figure out which side she's on.

It's not a bad film, but in a time when Schwarzenegger was making a name for himself and dominating the action genre with films like The Terminator, Commando and Predator, Raw Deal is probably (next to Red Sonja), one of his most forgettable and most underrated films of the 80's. If IMDB is to be believed, then Arnold only agreed to star in this film as more of a compromise to fulfill his contract with Dino De Laurentiis, whom he still had one film left under there agreement. That makes sense since this doesn't seem like the kind of film that he would have actively sought out to star in at this period in his career. If you can get past the presence of a huge Austrian with a thick accent who's twice the size of everybody else playing a back woods country sheriff and then goes undercover as an Italian heavy by wearing nice clothes and slicking his hair back knowing full well that it would be a hell of a lot more plausible and believable with "anybody" else in that role, then you'll have a good time with it because underneath all that, it's a really well made crime film with a decent amount of action and a few moments of brilliance.


  1. Umm... can I just tell you how jealous I am that you saw this at a drive-in?

  2. Ha ha ha! Thanks. :) I don't know why I remember that so fondly. I know we used to go out there a lot back wen we had one in town in the 80's, which we don't anymore. But for some reason Raw Deal always sticks out. I think it was because it was the first time I saw the super awesome trailer for the super awesome Cobra.

  3. I agree that Arnie was miscast here, thats so not his kinda story, nor part...funny thing on the side( this film was called CITY-HAI (city-shark), while Cobra was called CITY-COBRA),lol..the germans cannot leave them titles alone, or just translate that shit...its also OPERATION BROKEN ARROW, instead of plain and simple BROKEN ARROW...germans have a few screws loose, when it comes to movie titles...

  4. Good review! "Nobody gives him a Raw Deal!" Also that is super cool you saw this at a drive-in and saw the Cobra trailer!

  5. @ Ingo: Why do they do that?! I never understood why they change the titles of films in other countries. It makes it so confusing sometimes. Like Army of One aka Joshua Tree. I Come in Peace aka Dark Angel. Ah you Germans! HA HA HA!

    @ Ty: It's funny how I remember shit like that. I must have been 10, but even then I was a huge action fan and I remember when I saw what where and even if it was just the cover at my local video store. My memory is weird like that. Now math on the other hand........

  6. I need to make it unanimous, awesome that you saw this at a Drive-In. Our local one was closed when I was really young in favor of outlet malls. I think I saw 101 Dalmations or something there, but I don't really remember. Raw Deal at the drive-in with the Cobra trailer sounds amazing.

  7. Ha! Thanks. I don't remember going often, but I do remember going a few times and they were always memorable. To me though, seeing that Cobra trailer before Raw Deal was the high point of that experience.

    Funny story about that drive-in. Somewhere around the mid to late 80's they closed it down only to have someone reopen it as a porno drive-in. That didn't last long for many obvious reasons. But I do remember being able to get on my roof and sneak one or two in while it was still available since I lived extremely close. lol. Ah the good ol' days.