RED SCORPION (1988)
Rating: 3 out of 4
Tagline: He's a human killing machine. Taught to stalk. Trained to kill. Programmed to destroy. He's played by their rules... Until now.
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brion James, Al White, Alex Colon and T.P. McKenna
THE PLAN: A Russian Spetznaz aka a Russian badass (Lundgren) is sent to Africa to infiltrate and kill the leader of a group of resistance fighters. But when he finds out the deceit behind the mission, he makes the wrong things right with a f*ckload of guns.
THE KILL: RED SCORPION was DOLPH LUNDGREN’S follow up to ROCKY 4 and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and it’s the movie that sent him on his way to become the action star that he is today. It was his first straight action movie as a lead. I grew up with this one, learned the expression “Fucking A” from it and to this day I always hum the “action score” of the final action scene when I’m doing something adrenaline charged (like snowmobiling for example). I hadn’t seen the film in eons and when the SYNAPSE BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK landed on my door step I was as happy as a grunt in a swamp to be able to revisits this nostalgic favourite. So did it still hold up? That it did.
At first glance, RED SCORPION may come off as Lundgren’s version of RAMBO or COMMANDO and on some levels it is. As directed by Joseph Zito (who greased his chops on the excellent The Prowler, Friday the 13th Part 4, Missing in Action and Invasion USA); the film had its fair share of nitty gritty action scenes. Am talking hand to hand combat, crazy chases (one that reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Arc), fun with tanks, mucho gunfire, helicopter madness and mayhem galore. It was a war party at Dolph’s pad and everybody was invited! Now in the 80’s (God bless em) they didn’t have green screen or CGI; so the stunts were done for real and surprisingly, Dolph pretty much did all of his stuff himself. That of course lent further authenticity to not only his character but the story itself.
You've been Dolphed!
RED SCOPION was also deeper than I remembered it to be and now all grown up; I esteemed that aspect of the film more. Granted it addressed the real life incident of Soviet and Cuban troops f*cking shit up in Africa but personally the angle that grabbed me was the tale of a man who was trained to believe in one thing, was sent in to infiltrate and assassinate, then took the blinders off, grew as a human being, changed sides and did the right thing. WOW, now that I think of it, wasn’t AVATAR about the same thing? But I digress. Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t communicated in a heartfelt OUT OF AFRICA kind of way, but the depth was there, Dolph did a fabulous job at conveying it (loved his touching scenes with the Bush Man who helped him find his way again) and it’s a side of RED SCORPION that went over my head as a young buck (just wanting to see commies get mowed down).
Add to that striking cinematography (the flick often had that epic look to it), a potent use of the setting (everything was shot on location in the desert of Namibia), some slick Tom Savini made FX and some fine performances (Al White, Alex Colon and T.P. McKennaand owned it) and you get yes an 80’s action juggernaut that packed a wallop in the kaboom and body count department, but that also delivered as a quasi character study. On the flipside; if I hear one more LITTLE RICHARD song I’m gonna blow your brains out. They overdid it with the Richard tunes to ad nauseum level. Moreover, there was some lagging in the middle section, nothing too critical, but it had to be dropped. Finally M. Emmet Walsh got on my freaking nerves as the loudmouth and forever cussing journalist ( on top of that his character was fairly pointless) and the ending crashed in a pinch abruptly. I heard that was due to the shoot being problematic, the ending in the script was much smoother.
Tell him he's not Spetznaz! I dare ya! I double dare ya!
On the whole RED SCORPION has aged very well and big props to SYNPASE for giving it the red carpet treatment with this packed Blu-Ray/DVD combo! It’s not everyday that a film like RED SCORPION gets its dues, so this action fiend mucho appreciates it. F*ck Lawrence of Arabia! Give me Nikolai of Africa! He IS Spetznaz!
TOP ACTION: So many to chose from but my favorite would have to be the orgy of violence that goes down in the last 10 minutes. Dolph mowing down an army, beating foes up, blowing up a chopper, you can't go wrong!
TOP DEATH: The dude holding a grenade that gets his arm blown off. Always remembved that one!
TOP DIALOGUE: My favorite exchange: Colonel Zayas: Are you out of your mind? Lt. Nikolai: No. Just out of bullets. And of course: I am Spetznas but I'm no longer one of you...
HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: I always felt that M. Emmet Walsh got wayyyyy too excited when Dolph started to strip down to take that swim. "Take it off, take it alll off!". Easy tiger...
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: None whatsoever. It's ladies night with this one i.e. pumped up Dolph shirtless 24/7.
DRINKING GAME: Drink every time you think "Who the f*ck cut Dolph's hair like that"?
TRIVIA: There's a sequel in NAME ONLY called RED SCORPION 2, directed by Michael Kennedy and starring Matt McColm.
BONUS FEATURES ON THE DVD: All-New 2K High-Definition Digital Restoration of the Uncensored Version - Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito and Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson - All-New DTS-HD MA 5.1 Soundtrack Mixed Specifically for This Release - HATH NO FURY – DOLPH LUNDGREN AND THE ROAD TO RED SCORPION Featurette - ASSIGNMENT: AFRICA – Video Interview with Producer Jack Abramoff - SCORPION TALES – Video Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini - Rare Original On-Set Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage - Animated Still Gallery - Liner Notes on the Making of RED SCORPION - Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots.