Red Heat isn’t one of my top Arnie movies but it’s still a massively entertaining buddy movie and is everything we love about 80’s action. The 4K is the best the movie has ever looked or sounded but be warned it does freeze at a couple of points which I find happens with every StudioCanal 4K I’ve bought.
Plot: A tough Russian policeman is forced to partner up with a cocky Chicago police detective when he is sent to Chicago to apprehend a Georgian drug lord who killed his partner and fled the country.
Review: I don’t think enough people talk about Red Heat; I consider it similar to Raw Deal in that it isn’t one of Arnie’s finest hours, but it is still hugely entertaining.
It tells the story of a dedicated Soviet cop called Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who arrives in Chicago, where he reluctantly teams up with a foul-mouthed American detective (James Belushi) to comb the streets for the Russian drug dealer and killer Viktor Rostavili (Ed O’Ross).
I enjoy Arnold’s performance here as it’s more restrained than usual with few one-liners and according to IMDB this was a deliberate move from director Walter Hill. He chose to tone down the Arnold Schwarzenegger persona, making him more realistic and less prone to wisecracks: “I had confidence in him as an actor. I didn’t want him just to throw a Volkswagen over a building. Arnold has an ability to communicate that cuts through cultures and countries. They just love to see this guy win. But everyone thinks it’s his muscles. It’s not that at all: it’s his face, his eyes. He has a face that’s a throwback to a warrior from the Middle Ages, or ancient Greece”.
Jim Belushi is his polar opposite and is the loudmouth, brash American who swears even more than I do. The usual buddy banter ensues with lots of 80’s style jibes at Russia while the two cops try to take down Viktor. The characters are more interesting than you’d expect and tries to avoid stereotypes but isn’t always successful.
Ed O’Ross was the go-to 80’s bad guy and I thought he came across as very convincing in Red Heat as the villainous Viktor Rostavili. O’Ross has always been great at looking mean and he really comes across as irredeemably evil in this movie.
The supporting cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon, Peter Boyle, Brion James and Richard Bright; Brion James was another actor who was the villain in every 80’s action picture but he sadly passed away back in 1999 at the young age of 54.
The action in Red Heat is smaller in scale compared to other Arnie movies with it mostly being shoot-outs and punch ups with an impressive bus chase for the climax.
Directed by Walter Hill (who may well be my favourite director) Red Heat is as expected incredibly manly and starts off with a fight scene between Arnie and several half naked and very muscly other men, one of which includes Sven-Ole Thorsen. The best thing about the opening fight scene is the punching sound effects which sound like something out of a cartoon and is one of my absolute favourite aspects of the entire film.
The music from the late, great James Horner has a fabulously Russian sounding choral piece at the start and end credits which is swelling and heroic making it one of his more under-appreciated scores.
Red Heat has plenty of nudity, neon signs and steamy streets giving off that awesome 80’s sleazy vibe which works perfectly in setting the tone and it’s the kind of film we just don’t see much of anymore.
In another piece of very interesting trivia, it could be argued that Red Heat takes place in the same universe as Extreme Prejudice where the drug dealer wearing a white suit called ‘Lupo’ that Rostavili meets outside the bus station is the same ‘Lupo’ that appears in Extreme Prejudice (1987) (also played there by Luis Contreras). He appears at the end after Nick Nolte has shot Powers Boothe and tells him “now you get to wear the white suit”. Forget the MCU, I’ll take the Extreme Prejudice Universe any day.
I picked up the StudioCanal 4k Of Red Head when I was in the UK recently and it has been wonderfully remastered with near perfect picture and sound. There is no waxiness to the faces, and it still looks like a movie from the 80’s but the picture makes it look like it was filmed last week.
There are some nice special features too (see below) with the standout exploring the political context of the film.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Man who raised Hollywood
Political context of “Red Heat”
East Meets West – Featurette about Carolco and Red Heat
A Stuntman For All Seasons – Tribute to Benny Doblins
I’m Not A Russian But I Play One On TV – Interview with Ed O’Ross
Original Trailer + Spots
I don’t know if anyone else has this issue, but this happens with every single StudioCanal 4K I buy where at some point during the film the disc freezes and I have to eject it and put it back in, then it plays correctly again. It literally happens with every single one of their discs and I wish I knew why.
Overall, at just under an hour and 45 minutes, Red Heat doesn’t overstay its welcome and although it isn’t quite top tier Arnold it’s still an easy watch with enough action, buddy banter and gratuitous nudity to be worth viewing. The 4K is the best the film has ever looked or sounded and there are enough special features to keep you entertained.