Continuing on my series of the strange films of 1988, I am bringing up a double feature starring everyone’s favorite action hero-turned-politician: Jesse Ventura! In 1987 Jesse Ventura was featured in two of the greatest films of his cinematic oeuvre: The Running Man and Predator.
While I bring up the amazing double feature that is Predator and The Running Man, those are not the films I will be discussing for the next two installments of Crazy 88. However, the films I will be talking about do in fact star an action hero-turned-politician, one who starred alongside Mr. Ventura in the previously mentioned films, and who happens to be fairly more prolific than the one mentioned previously.
Arnold made a couple of very interesting choices in his roles for 1988. As I discussed, his two features from the year prior were huge successes, and have both gone on to prove their place in the memories of movie fans. The following year saw Arnold starring in two films helmed by established directors, and also ones who have extremely different styles, not only from each other, but also from that of Arnold’s work up to this point. Twins and Red Heat are two of Arnold’s strangest films, and both exemplify my point about the insanity among the releases of 1988.
Red Heat, directed by Walter Hill, features Arnold starring alongside Jim Belushi, Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne, and Peter Boyle. Arnold plays Captain Ivan Danko, a Russian police officer who comes to America to track down a criminal who fled his home country. The chase leads him to Chicago, where he teams up with Detective Seargant Art Ridzik (Belushi).
The film really capitalizes on the differences between 80’s-capitalist American ideals and those of Soviet Russia. Most of the differences are successfully played for humor by Arnold and Belushi, my favorite being the scene where Arnold gets a hotel room and tries to turn on the TV but realizes that he needs to insert a quarter. After he inserts the money, the TV turns on and porn is what is playing, and his response is condescendingly blurting “Capitalism” with everything but an eyeroll.
What I felt was the strangest part of the film was that it gracefully danced the line of avoiding promoting one side or the other. Walter Hill’s previous films seemed to have a more American flavor that embraced the Western style (especially his film before this Extreme Prejudice), so for this film to avoid the overstep into propaganda was something that I didn’t expect.
Arnold’s portrayal of a Russian is also strange in that his famous Austrian accent isn’t hidden by his Russian one, but they blend together and instead of sounding like someone with a Russian accent, he sounds exactly how one would imagine Arnold doing a Russian accent would.
Arnold and Belushi create a great buddy-cop/rom-com mash-up and Walter Hill’s knack for directing action is on display here. Check it out if you haven’t.
I am glad I got to talk about this film and how it qualifies for Crazy 88, and it is a great segway into the film I will discuss next time: Ivan Reitman’s Twins.