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Raw Deal: The Flop That Gave Us Total Recall

By  · Published on June 23rd, 2016

Junkfood Cinema explores one of Schwarzenegger’s less-successful, but still fun early films.

One Junky Summer blazes forward with a film clearly inspired by Miami Vice, but concocted with no understanding of how undercover work actually…you know…works.

Raw Deal is a largely forgotten Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner, and honestly its absence from the pop culture collective conscious is well-earned. Unlike last week’s film, Cobra, Raw Deal does not have an angry disdain for its own crime-ridden society simmering under, and silently elevating, an outwardly silly b-movie. Nor does Raw Deal compensate for grumbling leads and truncated story structure with visually interesting cinematography and dangerously creative camera work. In short, Raw Deal is the movie most people erroneously remember Cobra to be.

So why cover it? Because there is still something so undeniably entertaining about watching Arnold Schwarzenegger (his star well on the rise in the summer of 1986) punch, smash, and blast his way through a flimsy construct; tearing down slapdash scenery even while the action is captured by a camera drably bolted to the ground. There is also a devil-may-care brazenness to the absurdity, the filmmakers almost cockily daring the audience to question, for example, why impossibly Austrian Arnie would be instantly accepted as a small-town North Carolina sheriff.

Cult actors Robert Davi, Darren McGavin, and Paul Shenar work wonders to make their one-characters sing even while most of their performances are drowned out by bullet spray. Streamlined to a fault, Raw Deal’s one-against-the-mob trappings flourished with hilariously reckless violence invites the hypothetical diversion of wondering whether Charles Bronson or Fred “The Hammer” Williamson would have starred were the movie released ten years prior.

Raw Deal also scratches my particular itch for films that, despite their failings, serve an important function in the greater history of better films. Were it not for the flopping of Raw Deal, Dino De Laurentiis may have been able to scrounge up the money to make his Schwarzenegger-less version of Total Recall with David Cronenberg directing and Patrick Swayze starring.

Cargill and I discuss this bizarre alternate timeline, break down the reasons Arnold is the worst undercover cop of all time, and upvote the Governator’s honest-to-goodness heavy Reddit presence. Feel free to download, listen, and share!

As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episode covering an additional movie from the summer of 1986! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.