(director/writer: Walter Hill; screenwriters: Harry Kleiner/story by Mr. Hill; cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti; editor: Donn Aron/Carmel Davies/Freeman Davies; music: James Horner; cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Ivan Danko), James Belushi (Art Ridzik), Peter Boyle (Lou Donnelly), Ed O’Ross (Viktor Rostavili), Larry Fishburne (Lt. Stobbs), Gina Gershon (Cat Manzetti), Richard Bright (Det. Sgt. Gallagher), Brent Jennings (Abdul Elijah), Gretchen Palmer (Hooker), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Night Clerk), Brion James (Streak), J.W. Smith (Salim); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gordon Carroll/Walter Hill; Columbia TriStar Pictures; 1988)
“Went hotly down my throat like a shot of vodka with a donut to appease this big hunger pang I suddenly had for junk Commie things.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is the first American company allowed to film in Red Square; it’s an outrageously brutal glasnost buddy movie between a Yankee and a Red, who are almost exact opposites. It works as a superficially entertaining thriller even if it doesn’t deliver much comedy (though it sure tries); what it delivers is a pulsating, fast-paced series of action sequences from a fight scene between musclebound Goliaths in a sexy unisex steamroom in a Russian foundry to a reckless shoot-out in a seedy Chicago hotel inhabited by whores and pushers. All the sequences somehow cross over the border to absurd territory, as reality is not the name of the game here. It’s directed by Walter Hill (“The Warriors”/”The Driver”/”Johnny Handsome”), in his winning formulaic 48 Hrs. style, and cowritten by him and Harry Kleiner.
It teams poker faced, grim and taciturn Captain Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a nonconformist Soviet police officer with wisecracking nonconformist Chicago detective Art Ridzik (James Belushi), after Danko comes to extradite notorious Russian drug lord, rapist and cop killer Viktor Rostavili (Ed O’Ross) who was picked up for going through a red light. Rosta skipped to Chicago, setting up a cocaine business with local black hoodlums, called Cleanheads, after escaping from a Russian drug bust, where Danko killed his brother and Rosta killed Danko’s partner.
While in custody for extradition to Moscow, Danko escapes and Detective Gallagher (Richard Bright), Art’s Chicago partner, gets killed. The film rapidly moves though several violent incidents, a chilling meeting between Rosta and Danko arranged by Rosta’s dancing instructor/prostitute American wife (Gina Gershon) and finally a wild bus chase through Chi town between Danko and Rosta, with Art joining the ride for awhile until deciding this is a Russian thing. The film’s most ironical line has Schwarzenegger tell Belushi after they bypass such things as the Miranda law and cause all sorts of mayhem done against the police book: “We’re police officers, not politicians.” It was the only unintentional funny that came out of this crass and cartoonish actioner, that nevertheless went hotly down my throat like a shot of vodka with a donut to appease this big hunger pang I suddenly had for junk Commie things.
REVIEWED ON 4/3/2008 GRADE: B-