Arnold Schwarzenegger is a small town sheriff who once worked for the FBI. His old agent pal Darren McGavin needs him back to go undercover and destroy powerful Chicago gangster Sam Wanamaker’s organization.
Arnie takes the assignment, meets a gangsters moll, butts head with a tough enforcer and shoots a lot of bad guys.
If you ever wondered what it would have been like had Arnold starred in a Cannon Pictures film, Raw Deal is the closest you’ll come to witnessing it. It’s on the level of a grade-B Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris actioner. It’s completely disposable, doesn’t offer up enough to make it very satisfying and you’ll forget about it awfully fast!
That’s how it went for me. I watched it once back in the 80’s. Rewatching it again I realized I didn’t remember a thing about it. I thought perhaps it was the time gap that hazed out my memory, but no – it’s the movie. Even having just rewatched it it’s already becoming a blur.
There’s not a heck of a lot to talk about it with Raw Deal. It’s extremely routine, clichéd and unexciting. Everyone goes through the motions, nothing stands out and when the action bits do happen they’re very humdrum.
Arnold walks through the film acting like a mysterious tough guy who wants to work for Wanamaker. Robert Davi, his righthand goon is wary about this stranger and gives him a bit of attitude which Arnold shoots right back at him. Kathryn Harrold is tasked with finding out about Arnie, and what do you know she actually starts to take a liking to him!
It’s a very self-serious exercise and no fun is being had. There are some good actors onscreen, but they don’t get to do much of anything. There’s no sparks or memorable scenes between any of them. Arnold displays very little of his charisma that he brought to most of his movies. Watching him in this you would think there wasn’t anything special about him.
You would think with Davi as a heavy he’d do some cool stuff. Nope. Ed Lauter pops up and does nothing. I was expecting him to do more than just have scenes of saying, “Ok buddy, who are you?”
Wanamaker has the best line in the entire movie. After one of his goons is killed he says, “Tony was a good kid. Make sure you get a good replacement for him.” That’s it. That’s the one light humorous moment in this.
There’s a subplot about corrupt prosecutor Joe Regalbuto working with Wanamaker that adds no extra tension or surprise to any of this. As things roll on you just stop caring and hope the next scene will have a nice jolt to liven things up and it never happens. Even a sequence with the bad guys faking a bomb threat and breaking into a police station ends up being so uninspired it had me yawning. At points I completely forgot what Arnold’s undercover mission was! I kept asking myself, “What is Arnold meant to be doing again?”
The action starts pretty decent with Arnold’s charade of faking his death in a big fireball explosion, but then things settle into a series of machine gunning nameless goons that get so tedious it feels like very little effort went into any of the action sequences at all.
The filmmakers probably spent more money and time getting the rights to play ‘Satisfaction’ during one scene than crafting it to be a killer action sequence. That by the way, ends up being more eye-rolling than cheesy good time fun.
At the time, Arnold’s career was really on the rise and I read Schwarzenegger still had a contract with Dino De Laurentiis from those Conan movies. Raw Deal was his concession to dissolve his multi-picture agreement.
So, this could be looked at as freeing up Arnold to go on to star in all those actioners his fans love, but it was high price to pay starring in this flick. It’s got to be one of the worst and most forgettable movies on his resume. There’s really nothing to see here folks.