Raw Deal

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If you’re the best there is they never would have invented the wheel.

The best Schwarzenegger films always have a bit more to them than just the muscle of action spectacles. Total Recall (1990) and The Last Action Hero (1993) are two of Schwarzenegger’s best pictures and, paradoxically, that is both because of and in spite of Schwarzenegger himself. However, if you grew up as Schwarzenegger’s career hit its zenith then you know that neither of these films represents the epitome of what it means to be a Schwarzenegger flick. Schwarzenegger’s definitive roles and his most “Arnold” movies aren’t meant to be clever or reflexive. A real Schwarzenegger movie is about putting Arnold in absolutely insane situations and delighting in how, with little else but raw physical energy, he punches his way out. Of course it always helps if Arnold has some real nutcase dialogue to deliver in his signature Austrian accent. These films, like Conan The Barbarian (1982) and Commando (1985), all predate Schwarzenegger’s bid to be a family entertainer. That said, I submit Raw Deal (1986) as the ultimate Schwarzenegger feature.

In Raw Deal Schwarzenegger plays a former FBI agent turned small town sherif who is recruited by his old boss and mentor to infiltrate Sam Wanamaker’s criminal organization. As Arnold plows through Chicago on his unsanctioned crusade of justice he leaves mannequins raining from ceilings, Rolling Stones cassettes in tape decks, and a body count that would make Rambo blush.

In one key scene Arnold peaks around an open door while making snoring sounds with his mouth to avoid detection as he eavesdrops. Earlier in the film he cautioned his wife “You shouldn’t drink and bake” and later he threatens a goon with the zinger “I hope you’re not your mother’s only child”. Gary DeVore’s usual sense for witty quips seems to have gone wonderfully schizoid when he put pen to paper to write this opus.

Over seeing the production of Raw Deal was none other than John Irvin. Irvin specializes in action spectacles with more chest thumping and scenery chewing than you can imagine. In Raw Deal Irvin really lets rip. In the opening credit montage we see one mode of transportation after another as mobsters commute to an FBI safe house to knock-off an informant. Every scene echoes this decision, cramming in as much dick swinging as possible to the point that the film seems to be a parody of itself.

That’s why Raw Deal is THE Arnold movie. No other film is as insanely obsessed with its own masculine bravura as Raw Deal is. It really does read as comedy 90% of the time. Even in the eighties there is no way someone could watch this film and take it as seriously as the movie takes itself. If you don’t understand why we still love Arnold after all of these years, look no further than Raw Deal.