Red Scorpion (1988) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Dolph Lundgren is Russian spetsnaz soldier Nikolai Rachenko. Sent on a fool’s mission by his superiors whom are conspiring with the Cubans to knock off a rebel leader deep in the African desert. Nikolai is to gain the trust of an imprisoned rebel solider under the guise of being a deserter. After helping the renegade and an American journalist (played with spunk and charm by veteran actor M. Emmet Walsh) escape the Russian POW compound, the trio sets out across the dunes to the hidden village that houses the rebel army. An unsuccessful assassination attempt of the rebel leader leads to torture and imprisonment for Nikolai.

A fairly compelling and coherent story for this type of 80’s shoot ’em up action-er makes this a must see for any fans of the genre. Lundgren is perfect as the Russian special forces member that grows a conscious with the help of an African Bushman. His physique rivals Schwarzenegger and the one-man army approach is typical of the era. Due to a glut of ‘Rambo’-esque knock-offs that appeared in the late 80’s this film wasn’t received well at the box-office. If it had been a hit I’m sure this would have been Lundgren’s signature character and many sequels would have followed. As is the picture found its audience on video and cable television, resulting in something of a cult-classic.

The direction by Joesph Zito is similar in approach to his work on 1984’s ‘Missing In Action’. A lot of loving close-ups of his star and scores of villainous soldiers being slaughtered by our hero. However he lets Lundgren and screenwriter Arnie Olsen inject some sly humor and a hint of camp into the mix. The final showdown is a ten minute action assault reminiscent of the climax from ‘Commando’, and I mean that as a compliment. Unfortunately today the film is remembered more for the involvement of producer Jack Abramoff than anything else. An action classic from a decade that produced the best of them.

Director: Joesph Zito
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Brion James

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