EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally appeared on July 26, 2022. Raw Deal was not produced by Cannon but was released on video by HBO/Cannon Video.
Dino De Laurentiis made this so he could make a quick buck and then make Total Recall. De Laurentiis would eventually file for bankruptcy and sell the rights to Carolco Pictures, who would make the movie with Arnold, who Dino never saw as the lead in that Phillip K. Dick story.
As for Schwarzenegger, if he made this, De Laurentiis would finish out his contract.
I keep thinking back to Roger Ebert’s review* of this: “This plot is so simple (and has been told so many times before), that perhaps the most amazing achievement of Raw Deal is its ability to screw it up. This movie didn’t just happen to be a mess; the filmmakers had to work to make it so confusing.”
That’s true. All they had to do was watch Yojimbo. Or A Fistful of Dollars. Or Django. Or Il conto è chiuso. Or The Warrior and the Sorceress. It’s a simple story that can be told in any way, but this one, well…
At least it has Arnold.
Blair Shannon protects a mob informant with his life, a fact that causes his father — FBI Agent Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) — to want only one thing: revenge. The object of that pound of flesh retrieval will be Sheriff Mark Kaminski AKA Joseph P. Brenner (Schwarzenegger), himself a former FBI agent who was kicked out for beating the life out of a suspect who sexually assaulted and murdered a young girl. The man who ruined his career — Marvin Baxter (Joe Regalbuto) — is now a special forces prosecutor looking into the same crime family who killed Shannon’s son.
Like some 70s paperback action hero, Kaminski “dies” in a chemical plant explosion and is reborn as the crook Joseph P. Brenner, ready to infiltrate the family — as an Italian it is my duty to inform you that the mafia does not exist and has been created by the mass media as a slander against my people — and has to keep up his fake identity which gets compromised nearly at the cost of Shannon’s life.
It’s a movie filled with character actor tough guys — Ed Lauter, Steven Hill, Dick Durock, Robert Davi and Sven-Ole Thorsen — but the amazing thing is just how brutalized Arnold is by every woman in the cast, in particular his wife Amy (Blanche Baker, Molly Ringwald’s sister in Sixteen Candles and also the daughter of Carroll), who has taken to their isolated small town life with bottle in hand. Yet Arnold remains devoted to her, not giving in to the urge to fall in love with gangster moll Monique (Kathryn Harrold, who was menaced by bats in Nightwing and a large opera singer in Yes, Giorgio).
Directed by John Irvin (Next of Kin — the one with Swayze, who was almost in this) from a script by Luciano Vincenzoni (For a Few Dollars More, Miami Supercops), Sergio Donati (Once Upon a Time In the West, the original Man on Fire) and Gary DeVore (Running Scared), this film seems like a rest stop on the way to Arnold owning Hollywood. However, Arnold has also said that he learned a lot here, referring to Irvin as “a real actor’s director.”
*Meanwhile, Gene Siskel said “it has essentially the same story as Cobra,” which is so wrong.