Arnold Week: Red Heat (1988)

Walter Hill and Arnold Schwarzenegger had wanted to work together for some time and Hill kept playing with concepts, saying “I didn’t want to do sci-fi and it’s tough to use Arnold credibly in an American context with his accent. I thought it would be interesting if he could play a Russian cop in the US. I wanted to do a traditional John Wayne/Clint Eastwood larger-than-life movie. You then ask the question: Will the American audience accept an unapologetic Soviet hero, someone who will not defect at the end of the movie?”

It was a success, but not as much as expected. Arnold would later say, “It wasn’t the smash I’d expected. Why is hard to guess. It could be that audiences were not ready for Russia, or that my and Jim Belushi’s performances were not funny enough, or that the director didn’t do a good enough job. For whatever reason, it just didn’t quite close the deal.”

At the time, I saw it as a step down for Arnold from Predator and The Running Man. Of course, he’d follow this up with Twins, which was a huge success that showed Hollywood that he was more than action.

Captain Ivan Danko (Schwarzenegger) has lost his partner to crime boss Viktor Rostavili (Ed O’Ross), who has come to the U.S. and been arrested for a traffic violation. Danko is sent to bring him back to Russia and meets Sergeant Art Ridzik (James Belushi) and Detective Max Gallagher (Richard Bright), but when they transport the villain to the airport, they’re ambushed and Rostavili gets away.

Both Danko and Ridzik have lost a partner and want revenge, as well as to stop the crime boss from working with Chicago street gangs to smuggle uncut cocaine into the Soviet Union.

It’s a buddy cop movie with two men from different countries who are ultimately very much the same. It also has Gina Gershon as Rostavili’s American wife, Larry Fishburne as the lieutenant and Brion James as a henchman.

Belushi and Arnold would work together again in Jingle All the Way and Last Action Hero. They work pretty well together. A sequel that would have had Ridzik come to Russia was planned and never happened.

It’s funny that Arnold was forty when he made this and had not yet ascended to being the biggest star in the world.

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