This 1980’s action thriller is one of the precursors to today’s buddy action comedies that capitalizes on the tough sternness of Ah-nuld with the sly wit and comebacks on James Belushi.
Ivan Danko is a stern member of the Soviet police force and he has been tracking down Georgian criminal mastermind Viktor Rostavili. After confronting him and his gang at a local café, where he exposes his plan to deal cocaine, a shootout ensues. Killed in the shootout are Danko’s partner by Rostavili and Viktor’s brother by Danko. At the funeral of Danko’s partner, he learns that Viktor has escaped to the United States with two associates.
Upon his arrival in Chicago, Danko finds himself teaming up with wise cracking detective Art Ridzik and his partner Gallagher. During a possible bust, Gallagher is gunned down by Rostavili, who is in cahoots to make a deal with a local gang run by Salim, who is taking care of business for the gang while the real leader, Abdul Elijah, is serving time. Ridzik wants vengeance for Gallagher’s death while Danko wants to do his job and bring Rostavili back to the USSR. The key to possibly crack the case is a young dancer named Cat Manzetti, who appears to have a connection with Rostavili. Will these two cops from opposite sides of the ocean be able to team up and stop a common enemy?
In the 1980’s, the former Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev revived the term “glasnost”, which means in Russian “openness” and applied it to friendly terms with the likes of the United States. Walter Hill, the creator of 48 Hours and later, the original Undisputed, co-wrote and came up with the concept of bringing Soviets and Americans together as allies rather than rivals as seen in earlier films such as Rocky IV and No Retreat, No Surrender. Hill had always wanted to work with Arnold Schwarzenegger and to show that new sense of glasnost, the film became the first Hollywood film to gain access to shoot in the Moscow’s Red Square for specific sequences, while Hungary was used for most of the Russian scenes.
Arnold Schwarzengger has always been exciting to watch, especially during his heyday of the 1980’s with his groundbreaking roles as both Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator. For this film, Schwarzenegger is given a more realistic role of Russian cop Ivan Danko, who despite using his country’s methods of crime busting in the mean streets of Chicago, soon learns that things are done differently in America. The breaking point for him comes when two Russian consulates pretty much call Danko a disgrace after a botched attempt to bust the villain, which results in the death of one of his American counterparts.
James Belushi, who has the tendency to follow in his late brother’s footsteps, is a great comic foil as Detective Art Ridzik, who after the death of his partner, finds Danko a worthy ally in terms of hav ing a common enemy as he too wants revenge. However, the differences come in the form of their methods of interrogating and busting criminals as it seems Danko’s methods may be the norm where he is from, but Ridzik’s methods are more of a traditional American value where every is innocent until proven guilty. However, the comic relief comes when he gives one of the best one-liners of the entire film when he sees Danko in plain clothes with the claim he is going undercover: “Undercover? You look like Gumby!”
Ed O’Ross is truly menacing as the lead villain Rostavili. He brings in a nasty sneer and foremanner to the role, a top Georgian drug dealer who is responsible for the deaths of both Danko’s and Ridzik’s partners, thus setting the catalyst for the alliance between the two. Gina Gershon provides a vital key to the story as dancer Cat, who has a connection to Rostavili but is never mentioned in Russia. Peter Boyle gives the most of his role as Chicago police chief Donnelly, who seems to have interest in Danko and his methods, but like many others, has his limits as well while Laurence Fishburne is quiet smarmy as the lead investigator in the case, who thinks he is better than everyone involved and feels he does not need the help of the two heroes.
There are some great action scenes consisting of shootouts, car chases, and to open the film, a pretty well made fist fight between Danko and two of Rostavili’s thugs, played by Sven-Ole Thorsen and Tiger Chung Lee, in the snow. Sadly, it was during this film that the film’s stunt coordinator, Bennie Dobbins, suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 55. The film is dedicated to his memory. The film does have a climatic chase scene involving a crazy game of chicken not in normal cars, but buses.
Red Heat is a great 80’s action classic that brings together Soviet and American police officers in an effort to stop a common enemy despite their differences of crime-fighting. However, the chemistry between the stern Ah-nuld and the wise-cracking Belushi makes for a very good buddy action film.
WFG RATING: A
Tri-Star Pictures presents a Carolco Pictures production. Director: Walter Hill. Producers: Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll. Writers: Walter Hill, Harry Kleiner, and Troy Kennedy-Martin.
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti. Editing: Donn Aron, Carmel Davies, and Freeman Davies.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Peter Boyle, Ed O’Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon, Richard Bright, J.W. Smith, Brent Jennings, Oleg Vidov, Savely Kramarov, Gene Scherer, Tengiz Borisoff, Roger Callard.