Blu-Ray Review: Red Scorpion

Review by Stephanie Scaife

New from Arrow Video and on its first ever outing onto Blu-ray comes Red Scorpion, a quintessential 80s action movie from Joseph Zito, he who brought us such classics as Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter as well as the exemplary Chuck Norris pictures, Missing in Action and Invasion USA. But here in Red Scorpion we have mighty man-mountain Dolph Lundgren as Nikolai Rachenko, a Russian KGB agent and “human killing machine” who is sent to the fictional African nation of Mombaka to aid Soviet forces fighting against an anti-communist rebel faction.

After a night out on the vodka Nikolai gets thrown into prison for disorderly conduct and finds himself sharing a cell with American journalist and resistance fighter, Dewey Ferguson (M. Emmet Walsh) and the rebel leader’s second-in-command Kintash (Al White). He allies himself with the duo in a bid to infiltrate the rebel splinter group and assassinate their leader. However, after failing his mission Nikolai is tortured by the Cubans and left to die in the harsh African desert. He is taken in by a local bushman who, by burning a giant scorpion onto his chest, shows him the error of his commie ways and the newly discovered promise of freedom soon has our monosyllabic hero leading the rebels to victory, mostly whilst doing a whole lot of grunting and wearing nothing but short shorts.

Although the film looks good, making the most of its African backdrop, and the cast all do a pretty good job of hamming it up, particularly Irish actor T.P. McKenna who plays a Russian General, this is a fairly nonsensical and predictable 80’s Cold War action no-brainer. Red Scorpion is neither particularly good nor particularly bad; in fact, I found it almost entirely forgettable and had to watch it twice (that’ll teach me to leave a couple of days between viewing and writing a review). Its good points are fairly few and far between but there are some decent, although often inexplicable, explosions and a bizarrely upbeat Little Richard soundtrack, but it never fully gets over its major failings, such as the unnecessarily long running time and the dull mid-section where nothing much happens besides Dolph traipsing around the desert doing a whole bunch of soul searching. Cue some hilarious facial expressions and even more grunting. Also, even after watching it twice I still didn’t really know what was going on half the time. This could in part be down to the butchering the film supposedly received at the hands of the producers who weren’t happy with the original cut.

There is a host of special features, as you would expect from an Arrow Video release, including: an introduction to the film by Dolph Lundgren, audio commentary by Zito, “All Out of Bullets: Dolph Lundgren remembers Red Scorpion”, original trailer, HD transfer of the film (1080p), collectors booklet and more. The interview with Dolph Lundgren was surprisingly informative; he discusses the perils of doing all of his own stunts (including jumping from a motorbike to a truck and being bitten by a hyena), spending 6 months shooting in Namibia in the scorching temperatures, not to mention having his water intake rationed so as not to appear “bloated”. It was far more interesting than expected and Lundgren comes across as gracious and often amusingly self-deprecating.

Red Scorpion is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 13 February 2012.

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