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Red Scorpion (1989)
Friday, April 21, 1989
No reasons given
Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T. P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano, Alex Colon, Brion James Regopstaan
Jack Abramoff, Robert Abramoff, Arne Olsen
Tattooed by a Bushman, a Soviet officer leads an overthrow of Soviet/Cuban troops in Africa.
Red Scorpion (1989) | Review
A Heroes Journey Wrapped In Glorious 1980s Excess
So, it is with that fair warning in mind that I declare Red Scorpion a new love in my life! I had a blast with this film from start to finish. And the only bad part is that sad feeling a treasure hunting film nerd sometimes feels after they have unearthed a gem and wondered: When will I next uncover something so fun?
Am I overhyping or overselling Red Scorpion? Absolutely. But a man has his guilty pleasures, and I can't hide mine!
Red Scorpion is a particular class of movie. Definitely not an "A-list" action feature from the 1980s, but very much at the upper crust of the "B-list" from that era. Director Joseph Zito is a bit of a genre hero who brought us such classics as Missing In Action and Invasion USA before unleashing Red Scorpion. And I argue that Red Scorpion easily trumps either of those films in quality, although Dolph Lundgren probably never achieved the cultural saturation that Chuck Norris did.
Red Scorpion offers the best of 1980s action excess, but oddly and successfully pairs those tropes with a genuine hero's journey. Nikolai Rachenko (Lundgren) is Spetsnaz, one of the most elite Soviet soldiers. And he is tasked with a daring mission: An undercover assassination of an African rebel leader who is causing the USSR trouble. Rachenko must go alone, gain access to this rebel general, and assassinate him. Along the way, however, Rachenko meets up with a rebel lieutenant and an American ex-pat (played by M. Emmitt Walsh!). Nicolai begins to bond with these men and has some adventures with them. But he remains on course to assassinate his target. When he fails at this, he finds himself alone in the world. Nicolai is tied up and cast out; only to be found by his former commander and ultimately stripped of his rank and tortured.
Of course, our hero manages a daring escape, but finds himself now utterly alone. It is at his lowest point that he finds himself stumbling through a barren African desert and poisoned by a scorpion's sting. At rock bottom, Nicolai is discovered by Gao, a native bushman, and begins his path to genuine redemption and ideological change.
Now don't take me all too seriously here, because although Nicolai's ideological shift feels fleshed out and genuine in Red Scorpion, the culmination of his shift comes to fruition with the utterance of that powerful rallying cry: "Let's kick some ass."
Yes, once Nicolai spends his needed time out in the desert (thirty days and thirty nights?) with the bushmen (which works a lot better in its execution than it sounds like it would on paper), he emerges ready to fight for the rebels' cause.
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