Directed by: Joseph Zito
Category: Badass Cinema
First and foremost, I need to thank my good buddy Ingo over at Hellford 667 Movie Reviews for hooking me up with this super rad German DVD. He knew I had been wanting to see this one for a while and after doing some research, I was bummed to learn that Red Scorpion is unavailable in widescreen anywhere, until he found out they were releasing a German unrated version in it's proper aspect ratio earlier this past month. Needless to say he hooked me up with this awesome piece of Badass Cinema as an early Christmas present because he's just plain fucking awesome that way. Thanks man!
One thing's for sure, Red Scorpion certainly didn't disappoint. I had seen this maybe only one other time before when it first came out, but remember virtually nothing about it, so I was eager to revisit this film from Lundgren's most impressive (my personal feeling) stage in his career.
Nikolai Rachenko is a revered Russian KGB agent assigned to infiltrate a black anti-communist camp and assassinate it's leader. When he fails his mission, he's tortured and set for execution by the very organization he's served his entire life. Angry and humiliated he escapes into the African desert and taken in by a local tribesman who saves his life and opens his eyes to the horrors of his people. Nikolai, angry and out for revenge, joins forces with the revolutionaries and wages war on his former Russian commanders and there Cuban allies.
Red Scorpion was a blast from start to finish. It had just the right amount of action for an 80's action fest with plenty of over the top scenarios and violence. Sure, it has a few slow moments here and there, mainly whenever Nikolai was "roaming the African desert". But if you know how the story plays out, you kind of expect there to be roaming scenes and that they always slow a film down, no matter how beautiful the scenery is. I counted three such sequences in here. Luckily the first two are brief and right when you start to get slightly bored......BOOM! A nice big action sequence comes outta nowhere. The only real slow one was the last roaming sequence, when he's taken in by the tribesman and taught how to hunt and all that. Other than that the film kept a constant pace with plenty of action and violence to satisfy any serious 80's action fan. I've always been a fan of director Joseph Zito. He's more than capable of handling both action and horror as evident in his filmography with films like the early 80's slasher The Prowler and Friday the 13th Part 4, and then delving into action with films like Missing in Action and one of my favorite Chuck Norris flicks ever, the completely ridiculous but totally awesome Invasion USA. He doesn't carry any kind of specific visual style, but knows how to blow shit up real good and make it look good when it counts. For some reason, after a string of awesome films like these in the 80's, he seemed to have fallen off the map completely and it's a damn shame he didn't continue giving us awesome action films like this. It might have something to do with all the trouble that went on behind the scenes during filming where financing fell through and because of delays, the budget doubled. Maybe he just got burned out? I don't know.
Dolph Lundgren, just coming off of Masters of the Universe and before heading into The Punisher, plays mean brute asshole like nobody's business. It's actually a type of character he's perfected in his long career and has made a career out of it, much to our delight. Another bright spot in here as far as casting goes would be the late Brion James as a Russian army dude who's good at dispensing corporal punishment. His high pitch voice while trying to simultaneously do a Russian accent is often times hilarious, but he's still great in the little screen time he's given here. M. Emmett Walsh as a reporter who just happens to get thrown in jail during Nikolai's assassination attempt, thus inserting himself into the rest of the story, does a fine job as an asshole American who just does not like Nikolai simply because he's Russian. I enjoyed his role so much that I wish he had a bigger part than he did. But he really makes the most with what he's given.
I love how the Russian battleship plays such a big part in this. It's so massive and completely intimidating when you hear the thudder of the helicopter blades as it's scouring the African desert looking for villages to decimate. And when it does, it's pretty fucking awesome. While that's cool, it's not as cool as when the battleship and Nikolai, armed with a monster of a canon (the same pictured on the cover) go head to head in a showdown at the end. Classic Joseph Zito stuff man! If I had any complaints, it would be maybe a little too much Little Richard music played throughout, and the last "roaming through the desert" sequence. But that's pretty much it. I enjoyed the hell out of 95% of it.
This is a really solid entry in both Dolph Lundgren and director Joseph Zito's career. With the exception of a slow sequence in the middle when Nikolai is taken in by an African tribe, it's pretty much wall to wall 80's style action at it's best. And when the finale rolls around with an insane amount of carnage in one last battle, you can't help but be giddy as a teenager watching this for the first time. Especially when they freeze frame that last shot. They just don't do shit like that anymore.
On a side note.
When my son was born almost 9 years ago, we decided to name him Nikolai. Yes, he's technically of Hispanic heritage, but we were trying to come up with a unique variation of the name Nick as a tribute to his grandfather who passed away and who he's never met. I believe Nikolai came from a band member of The Strokes, but I think now I will just tell people I named him after Dolph Lundgren's character from Red Scorpion from now on. It just sounds cooler.
One more special thank you to Hellford 667 Movie Reviews. You rule man!