My copy of Raw Deal came in a Total Recall bundle with two other ’80s Schwarzenegger vehicles, Red Heat and Red Sonja. I’ve never heard much about Raw Deal and naturally assumed it would be pants, so I’ve put off watching it for years. Well, that was a mistake because Raw Deal is actually a very entertaining film.
Raw Deal was released in 1986, just after Terminator and Commando and just before Predator, so it’s sort of from the golden period of Arnie’s career. However, he appeared in it just so that Dino De Laurentiis would release him from his contract to make more Conan films; it was never expected to be any good. Maybe that helped them have fun with it.
In some ways Raw Deal is a stereotypical 80s action film. Arnie plays a former FBI agent who got busted off the Bureau by corrupt officials working for the mob. He’s since tried to settle down as a rural sheriff, but life’s not treating him well. He then gets recruited by a former associate to go undercover and assassinate a bunch of mobsters who killed his son. So far, so pretty standard and generic. However, we first get a sense this film is a bit odd when Arnie comes home from work to find his wife drinking. Apparently she won’t cook proper food for them, just chocolate cake; naturally, Arnie’s worried about getting fat. He also warns her against the dangers of drinking while preparing delicious deserts–“don’t drink and bake”, as he puts it.
Raw Deal has one of the most unintentionally comedic scripts I’ve encountered. At least, I assume it was unintentional. It’s not quite up there with The Room or Samurai Cop, but to me watching Raw Deal felt like watching a higher-budget version of another Amir Shervan film like Hollywood Cop. The script is also riddled with the highest number of homo-erotic references and statements I’ve seen since I last watched another famous 1986 movie, Top Gun. Arnie’s main antagonist, mob boss Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker), is particularly culpable, telling his subordinates to stick their asses out for him and suchlike. It would be very easy to devise a Raw Deal drinking game; if we included the suggestive way Arnie smokes his cigars, everyone would pass out drunk half way through. The film has plenty of other moments of comedy, as well. At one point Patrovita loses $100 million worth of drugs and cash in a bust, after which his henchman consoles him “we’ll make it back in a couple of weeks”. If these guys are banking 50 million a week why the hell are they in Chicago rather than on a Caribbean island somewhere?
Raw Deal has its share of action, too, with a surprisingly bloody shoot out at the beginning that reminded me of the censored sections of Commando. Unfortunately the budget didn’t stretch to many major action scenes after that, but you probably won’t find yourself getting bored… so long as you’re a fan of Arnie and terrible writing, of course.
Overall, Raw Deal was a welcome surprise for me. I had very low expectations and was pleased to find that not only was the film more watchable than I expected, but the bizarre script provides plenty of entertainment to anyone who appreciates bad movies. Considering I got this film basically for nothing as a freebie with Total Recall, you could say I got anything but a Raw Deal.