The World According To Arnie–Raw Deal (1986)
It’s been quite a while since my last foray into the world of Arnie. After a terrible start to his acting career, Arnie seemed to have found his niche, either as an emotionless killing machine sent back from the future in ‘The Terminator’ or as a wise cracking killing machine in ‘Commando’. Both these roles used Arnie’s limited range perfectly, and created the persona we know and enjoy. Following these excellent films came ‘Raw Deal’, a film that in theory ticks all the Arnie boxes.
Mark Kaminsky (Arnie) is a disgraced former FBI agent now working as a small town sheriff in Bumfuck, Idaho spending his days chasing two-bit fraudsters and ducking chocolate cakes. In Chicago, a mob informant that was to testify against mob boss Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) is murdered along with the agents protecting him. One of the slain agents was the son of the high ranking FBI agent, and Kaminskys old boss, Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin). Shannon wants revenge, off the books, and offers Kaminsky a deal. Go undercover in the Chicago mob, and bring it down, and he’ll pull a few strings to get his old job back. I’m not sure that a 6ft 2in musclebound Austrian bloke is the best guy for an undercover job, but hey, I’m not a high ranking FBI man, so what do I know? Kaminsky eagerly agrees (who wouldn’t?), and without even telling his wife he fakes his death (not wanting to draw to much attention to himself he blows up the local chemical plant!), and heads off for Chicago. Once there he proceeds to crack skulls, shoot a lot of people, and butcher the English language. Everything we’ve come to expect from an Arnie flick, right?
‘Raw Deal’ simply doesn’t work. Arnie is woefully miscast as an undercover FBI agent. He plays the character straight, and makes a misguided attempt at acting. Never a good thing with the Austrian Oak. He works best in films that understand the limits of his capabilities. ‘The Terminator’ worked because it understood he’s an imposing presence. ‘Commando’ worked because he can be a gifted comedic actor, and Arnie delivered a lot of great one liners with a knowing grin and a wink at the audience. ‘Raw Deal’ is Arnie attempting to seriously act, and at this stage of his career (if ever) he doesn’t have the chops. It also doesn’t help that screenwriters Gary DaVore and Norman Wexler obviously forgot to tailor the dialogue to Arnies needs. I have to say I felt more than a little sorry for the big fella as he tripped and stumbled over the line "He molested, murdered and mutilated her".
That said, the blame is not Arnies alone. The acting across the board is unremarkable. Even the usually entertaining Robert Davi is entirely forgettable. The one stand out performance in the film is Blanche Baker as Arnie’s long suffering wife. She’s understandably miserable after five years in Hicksville and has very wisely developed a drinking problem. In her one brief scene she drunkenly hurls abuse at Arnie before hilariously hurling a freshly baked chocolate cake at his head. This scene is the highlight of an otherwise dull film, and also includes the films best line, when Arnie, having just dodged the cake, deadpans “You shouldn’t drink and bake.”
The direction by John Irvin is unremarkable (there’s that word again). It’s of the point and shoot variety, where all the action is visible and cohesive, but there’s no life, no energy. The film plods along at a even pace from start to finish. I haven’t seen any of Irvins other films, despite his having quite a prolific career, but on the evidence provided by ‘Raw Deal’ I won’t be going out of my way to seek them out.
All The elements for an entertaining Arnie film were in place with ‘Raw Deal’. A straighforward story that provided an excuse for a massive death count, explosions, caricatured villains, an asexual friendship with a lusty woman, and Arnie in ill-fitting suits and slicked back hair. But nothing clicks, because the screenplay lacks any wit or creativity and the film takes itself too seriously. Unfortunately ‘Raw Deal is a step backwards in the career of Arnie. But luckily for us (and by us I mean me), it’s a brief setback, because his next film is ‘Predator’ which kicks off a remarkable period in Arnie’s career. Can’t wait.
The World According to Arnie: