Even if he were permitted to run for President, forget the governor of California, forget he’s married to a Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be the last action hero to me.
His bodybuilding Mr. Universe success aside, From Conan to Terminator 2, Arnold was one of the most bankable stars of the 80’s and early 90’s, I’ll never forget an interview where the late Paul Yates on the Big Breakfast Show asked, “do you ever lie to your wife,” he causally replied something like, “Of course, I told her Last Action Hero was a big hit’. Proof he’s always had a great sense of humour!
With some wise roles and taking from his love of the Bond films and his own humour, Arnold finely tuned the one liner quips and he became a household name. Oddly he was never really criticised for his high body counts and Stallone seemed to take all the negative press.
I’m sure if it wasn’t for the sad death of his mother and his own heart problems and surgery that he wouldn’t have slowed. However, issues allowed wannabe Arnie clones to try and take his mantel, nevertheless, the new style of action hero, where brain means brawn did take the limelight and Schwarzenegger was wise to turn to politics which he’d always been interested in.
From a small isolated village in Austria to king of Hollywood, Arnold’s journey is an attraction in itself, but that is another story…
Below are my thoughts on some of Arnold’s most entertaining films.
Raw Deal (1986)
Wrongly disgraced FBI agent Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) reluctantly takes up a job as a sheriff of a small town but is given another chance, goes undercover and joins the Mafia to take them down.
Paul Michael Glaser’s Raw Deal, possibly with a different director could have become a successful mediocre 80’s cop/gangster flick. However, it become another Arnold vehicle which does them both credit, playing on his humour, packed with one liners, his physicality, he throws guys about and his action persona, he fire lots of guns.
Looking back and to put things into perspective, and removing The Running Man (1987) from the equation, Raw Deal fittingly sits in between Commando (1985) and Red Heat (1988). The story is superior to Mark Lesters Commando, a high body count, rescue action. However, it lacks the dynamics, acting or grounding of Walter Hill’s ‘buddy’ movie Red Heat.
While this is was a clever Schwarzenegger ‘vehicle’ what stands out about Raw Deal is that he’s not on screen all of the time and gives the movie breathing space, allowing the gangsters, a line up of familiar faces including: Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar and James Bond baddie Robert Davi to do their stuff. Darren McGavin gives a subtle performance as FBI agent Harry and Kathryn Harrold isn’t bad.
Raw Deal was never going to win awards but it’s an above average production, fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining. It’s a guilty pleasure and a must for Schwarzenegger fans – No one gives Arnie a Raw Deal.
The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Ben Richards who after being set-up with some altered surveillance footage is wrongly-convicted as the Butcher of Bakersfield. Later captured after a prison break he must try to survive a public execution gauntlet, staged as 2019 highest rated TV game show.
Nothing like the Steven King (writing a Richard Bachman) novel, veteran TV director Paul Michael Glaser gives an extraordinary vision of the TV consumer future. While slightly dated and its annoying use of footage from parts of the a film itself The Running Man (1987) was ahead of its time and still is an atmospheric and engaging ride.
It’s packed with outlandish stereotype characters, larger that life bad guys, big action sequences and the traditional Arnie one liners. But there’s a message that runs deep in Steven E. de Souza’s screenplay, which reflects our society, it’s fascination with realty TV, gambling and our fear of 24 hour surveillance, corrupt powerful corporations and manipulation by the media. Tackling the question in its own way, can you believe all you see?
There’s a dreamlike quality to the film, and the darker scenes ooze atmosphere. The costumes, sets and locations are striking, showing a great contrast between the different classes, the score is memorable but what makes this sci-fi work is that you actually care about the characters. The supporting cast are excellent, including Maria Conchita Alonso at her physical best, Alien’s (1979) Yaphet Kotto and Predator’s (1987) Jesse Ventura. Mick Fleetwood plays his older self and real game-show and TV host Richard Dawson is excellently cast as Killian. It goes without saying that Scwarzenegger is on top form in this physical role.
It’s great entertainment, it’s time to start running, don’t take my word for it, watch it.
Red Heat (1988)
Walterhill is on directing form in this Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. Red Heat despite some political shifts still holds up today. Schwarzenegger looks leaner and meaner than ever in the role of Ivan Danko a Captain who is sent to the U.S.A to bring back fleeing Russian drug dealer back to Moscow assisted by Det. Sgt. Art Ridzik (James Belushi).
The supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne and Peter Boyle. Ed O’Ross is convincing as the menacing drug dealer Viktor. Jackie Burch casting is perfect, Schwarzenegger’s Danko character is the just right as the fish out water Russian and James Belushi is on top form as the wise cracking cynical detective, it’s the perfect ‘buddy’ cop movie. The one liners flow fast at the expense of the culture differences between the USA and USSR.
Aside from James Horners rehashed music score from another Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando (1985), Red Heat feels original and surpasses predecessors, setting the foundation for many copycat films that followed. There’s a witty script but it’s far meatier than your average action film, befitting from a shot on location feel, giving it some believability and atmosphere.
All in all it’s a better than expected, an enjoyable action film with Arnold in his prime.
Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid who has the planet Mars on his mind. He goes for virtual vacation, however, things go awry as he discovers that his job, marriage and life maybe a lie. After a murder he’s forced to go to the planet for real but while on the run he finds that he may hold the key to an ancient Martian artifact.
Set in the year 2084 there are some nice futurist touches, talking robots, virtual tennis coaches, electronic nail painting to name a few. The internal mars sets are just that, sets, but the external, airport and mine shots are very effective. There is a wonderful otherworldly score by Jerry Goldsmith and some great costumes and spacesuits designed by Erica Edell Phillips.
RoboCop (1987) director Paul Verhoeven once again uses Ronny Cox as the menacing protagonist in this Phillip K Dick inspired story. In it’s day it was hailed for its special effects and make-up effects and while these have dated slightly, it still holds its own as an entertaining science fiction.
If the director reins and role were given to anyone other than Arnold this may have been a sci-fi thriller, but with Arnie’s larger than life screen presence and Verhoeven highly-flavoured visuals Total Recall is not given a noir look that would usual accompany such subject matter becoming a vivid futuristic action flick.
While the acting is a little overboard with a cast that include Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Marshall Bell it’s saved by the intriguing story that moves along at a fast pace and Schwarzenegger performance. The rest of the cast are hired bad guys, mutants and an array of quirky characters.
Overall Total Recall is a great piece of captivating entertainment so “for the memory of a lifetime Rekall, Rekall, Rekall.”
A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter…
John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments.
Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservingly started a franchise. . To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.
The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.
One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.
The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator remains one of the most enjoyable Science fiction films of all time. Bradfield’s pulse pumping score and nostalgic music from an array of obscure bands all adds to the lure of this timeless classic.
James Cameron’s direction is excellent, giving the visuals scope and depth. His above average story and screenplay stop it falling into B-movie hell.
The time travel is logical; in as much as if Sarah had never met Kyle, John would have been the off spring of one of her dates. Either way it’s highly satisfying science fiction and not science fact.
The films cast include Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen who play it natural and straight, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson briefly turn up. The leads Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor give flawless performances and keep you routing for their survival from the now infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Terminator. The film has a gritty and edgy look, with some gore moments, even though some of the effects have dated, the practical effects from Oscar winner Stan Winston hold up to this day.
A defining moment for sci-fi action, Schwarzenegger and Cameron. The Terminator is compulsive viewing.
With a larger than life story, catchy tag-line and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name in bold letters you felt at the time this action could be something special.
In 1985 Schwarzenegger need only fend off Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone to become number the one action hero. Mark L. Lester’s Commando gave Schwarzenegger the opportunity to become a mainstream action star without the high concept’s of being a killer robot or an amoral barbarian. Schwarzenegger, avoiding bad guy typecast quickly became a good guy hero and the rest is history.
In true 80’s tradition Commando’s writer’s Steven E. de Souza, Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman deliver a simplistic paper thin, yet pleasing plot. Arnie is John Matrix, a retired elite commando who has only a few hours to rescue his daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano) from an exiled dictator played by Dan Hedaya.
The cast are perfect for this genre and include Predtor’s Bill Duke and Vernon Wells in his best role as Matrix’s adversary Bennett. Striking Rae Dawn Chong is Matirix’s reluctant sidekick and has some amusing lines. And David Patrick Kelly plays a memorable role as the slippery bad guy Sully. Despite some filming and editing goofs, it’s a well-constructed film, Lester’s locations and sets, day and night shoots are worthy of note. James Horner accompanying score is excellent, with its catchy tune, horns and xylophone.
Genuinely funny, Arnold takes one liners quips to a new level thanks to Steven E. de Souza, screenplay. The body count is high and although far-fetched, for example, Arnold carrying a lot of muscle and firepower takes on a small army of extras, he is simply fascinating. With some remarkable practical stunts, brawl scenes, knife fights, car chases and plenty of shooting, Commando has everything an action film should have.
Over all it’s great action fun and as soon as Arnie picks up that first weapon you know, “Somewhere, somehow, someone’s going to pay.”