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November 17, 2012

Movie Review: Red Scorpion (1988, Synapse Films)

I feel like I missed the Dolph Lundgren train. After Ivan Drago and He-Man, he went on to play a series of action heroes that included the Punisher himself, Frank Castle. It all blew past me as I focused on Seagal and Van Damme. It seems that I was missing out.

Red Scorpion was only Lundgren's third movie. It followed the previously mentioned films and was only his second time taking the lead role (Masters of the Universe was the first). It's also the second time he played a Soviet Russian, and according to a bonus interview on the Synapse re-release, he pulled heavily from his time on Rocky IV. Red Scorpion is filled with the politics of the time, and apparently, the filming was as harrowing at times as the story itself.

During a time in which the Soviet Union and Cuba are working together to battle rebel forces, super soldier Nikolai (Lundgren) is sent to gain the confidence of a rebel named Kallunda in order to get close enough to kill the rebellion's leader. He does that, but an American journalist friend of Kallunda is rightfully suspicious. As things progress, Nikolai becomes an outcast amongst the rebel group and his own military, and after escaping into the desert, he has a life changing experience.

Red Scorpion is filled with '80s action goodness. The Russians are the bad guys, stuff blows up, a black guy and a white guy become friends and the little guys beat the big guys when there's no reasonable way they ever could. I noticed a familiar name at the begining of the movie. That was producer Jack Abramoff. He's exactly who you think he is, the Washington lobbyist who went to jail for fraud. He also wrote the story, and there may have been a legitimate political agenda behind the film.

Red Scorpion is a fun throwback, and the Synapse release has some interesting extras that include two behind-the-scenes featurettes with Tom Savini and a must watch interview with Lundgren. If you can get past the spelling and grammar errors in the titling of his interview (such as using excepting in place of accepting), Dolph Lundgren gives a great lesson on his path through his first three movies and tells stories of the turmoil that surrounded them while shooting in Africa.

I can definitely recommend the Synapse release to action fans. The movie is not great, but it is definite popcorn fun, and the extras are worthwhile. This is a great one for the blu-ray or DVD collection.

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