Red Heat and Red Sonja double review

*Originally written in 2003

Another of Arnie’s minor 80’s hits which sees him play a KGB agent who must team up with the wise-cracking Art, played by James Belushi, to find an escaped Russian drug dealer. There is plenty of comedy between the two, Arnie maintains his most stern face, and the action is okay. It just lacks the real spark or something special which made his classics…special classics…

The cast is pretty good, with Fishburne and Gina Gershon giving decent minimal support while O’Ross is an average bad guy. The plot is basic, the script is fine, but there is not enough action to keep the film moving at a fast pace. While there are some good one-liners and it is all light-hearted, this was the peak period of buddy movies, and there are better -Arnie himself has made a few. Up against those more obvious buddy action movies, this seems stale and by the numbers. It is true that Arnie was beginning to show his comic side – he is a funny guy, and would go on to make both better action movies and comedies. Arnie fans will enjoy it, others will find some entertainment from it, but it has few memorable moments to keep us coming back for more.

Red Sonja (also written in 2003)

Rather than make another Conan film, someone decided to make this unofficial spin-off fantasy yarn staring Brigitte Nielson as Sonja and Arnie as Kalidor. The Evil Queen Gedren steals a mystical talisman from a group of virginal priestess warriors, and butchers them all in the process. She plans to unleash a great evil on the world, but one of her victims was the sister of Sonja, a fearless warrior. Sonja decides to find Gedren, stop her plans, and get revenge. On her way she meets an impudent young Prince and his servant, and Kalidor – a great swordsman. Together they try to save the world, but Kalidor and Sonja still wish to prove to each other who is the superior fighter.

Unfortunately the whole film looks cheap, and most of the effects aren’t great. Even the sweeping camera-work used to great effect in Conan the Barbarian is nowhere near as good here, and the plot is basic. Arnie is good in the role, but his part is not very big. Nielson is okay, credit must go to both for their training and stunt-work, but she fails to show any worthwhile emotion. The character is not given much depth, focused on revenge rather than going through any grieving process. The young Prince is constantly annoying, but he and his master do provide a few laughs. Sandahl Bergman is good as Gedren, but she has begun to be typecast which is unfortunate as she is a fine actress. The action is good, but without proper involvement in the story it seems hollow. Arnie fans should enjoy it, but it is vastly inferior to his later and prior classics.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of either of these two movies – low ranked in the Arnie canon, or a personal favourite?

Tell it like it is!

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