Red Heat  (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Red Heat comes from the school of mismatched buddy flicks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a disciplined, humorless Moscow cop who is sent to the USA in pursuit of some heroin dealers. James Belushi is a gregarious, wisecrackin', rule-breakin' slob of  Chicago cop who is assigned to work with Arnold. Together, they must learn to overcome their differences and defeat some evil thing or another. As you can see, this mismatched crime fighter premise is fairly close to the formula that worked so well in director Walter Hill's most successful film, 48 Hours.

It's not a bad watch, but it was an "Arnold movie" made before they had the formula exactly right. The super physique was already there, but the humor was still undeveloped, and Arnold's acting skills were still ... um ... emerging. He delivers a lot of lines in Russian, so I asked Elya how the big fella did with his pronunciation. That didn't prove very useful. Although Russian is her native language, she said, "I wouldn't understand one word without the sub-titles".

In other words, pretty much the same as his English.

I've never heard Arnold speak German, but when I lived in Vienna, I was surprised to hear the Austrians say that Arnold is almost incomprehensible in German because he used to speak with a distinct Tyrolean regional dialect, and he now speaks that dialect with an almost incomprehensibly heavy American accent.

If only he could speak English with that same accent!

He seems to be a guy trapped without a native language. Is there anyone anywhere who knows what he's talking about?


Gretchen Palmer shows it all as a hooker. The naked corpse of her John is also seen from behind.

Gina Gershon may possibly show breasts underneath a gauze cover on the autopsy table.

Many, many anonymous men and women show breast and buns in the opening scene, including Big Ah-nold himself.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1 format, as well as a full screen version

  • no meaningful features

Back to the point. If you can ignore the fact that Arnold is about as Russian as  Samuel L. Jackson, you can actually enjoy the film when Arnold and Belushi are on screen together. The actual plot, whatever it was, was mere background for them to quibble about their varying approaches to life and the merits of their respective cultures.

By the way - one more point, just for the record. I know it looks very dramatic to show Moscow and Red Square covered in snow, but when Arnold flies to Chicago, they make a point of saying it is August. The weather in Moscow in August is about the same as the weather in Chicago. No snow, in other words, and sometimes blistering heat.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: moderately successful, it grossed $35 million in the USA


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C as a watchable buddy flick. I would rate it lower if the genre were "crime drama", because the actual plot is boring and can be excessively complicated by minor characters. In the great continuum of buddy flicks, however, it is about in the middle. Better than Tango and Cash. Worse than Butch and Sundance. If you like buddy flicks, you'll be OK with it. If you want it to be a crime drama, you won't much like it.

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