Red Scorpion (1988)
By: Devon B. on August 4, 2013 | Comments
Synapse Films | Region Free | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 106 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Joseph Zito
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, Brion James
Screenplay: Arne Olsen
Country: South Africa, USA, Namibia
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So, Dolph is playing an elite Russian warrior who is sent to Africa to squash a rebellion. The plan is for Dolph to cause trouble in a bar and get locked up with a key figure in the rebel army, help him escape and infiltrate the group. Unfortunately for Dolph the rebel has a sympathetic American reporter sidekick that is supremely distrustful of Dolph. Now, this doesn't happen until well in the film, but given the poster, tagline and the fact Dolph is the hero but playing a Russian in an 80s movie, I think most people will have worked out that Dolph eventually swaps sides for real and lays a ton of hurt down on the Russian army.

Red Scorpion was a troubled production, and that does show in the final product. The movie's just a bit too long and goes off on tangents that needed a bit of tightening, but while the messages of the movie get bogged down there is some interesting stuff, like the fact that it isn't the jingoist American that gets Dolph to reassess his side. In fact, the American just spouts propaganda, and it's actually the Russian "slave" that has the ability to re-evaluate things and think for himself to decide what's right. I think the American might be a repressed homosexual, or at the very least he's keen to see Dolph strip, so I got the impression that for all his gasbagging the guy wasn't as free as he claimed to be. The gung ho American guy actually made the film difficult for me, as I just felt ashamed every time he opened his mouth. This must've been what Australians felt like about Steve Irwin before he died and suddenly became a national treasure.

The film doesn't get into 80s wackiness quickly enough for me, but that's not to say it's bad. Dolph was immense at this point in time; when he goes into a bar and drunkenly beats its patrons up, shrugging off opponents' hits like they were nothing, it's totally believable. Dolph does his intense thing really well, and he gets to do some stunts that you wouldn't expect the lead to be allowed to do. He also shows that he's more than a man because his Scandinavian skin is completely impervious to the scorching African sun.

Even though this is the uncut version of the film, Tom Savini didn't have a lot to do FX wise, so don't expect a lot of bloodshed. While the blood might be a bit restrained, the movie does have some other very 80s sensibilities such as portraying commies as bad, Americans as free and Russians as having dodgy accents.

I wouldn't call Red Scorpion wall to wall action, but it's fairly unique in some of its plot points, and the African landscape gives the movie a different feel from a lot of shoot-'em-ups. I wasn't ever bored while watching the movie, but if the script had been tightened a bit this could've been something very special.
The Disc
Source material considered, Red Scorpion looks amazing. Some scenes don't hold up as well as others, but that's not due to a lack of effort on Synapse's part. There's a little bit of edge enhancement, but this was a minor quibble indeed as overall the transfer's fantastic.

There's a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track or a DTS-HD Master Audio track of the original 2.0 mix, so there's something for the purists and something for people that think all movies are meant to be 5.1. The 5.1 does add some nice touches like room echo, and immerses the viewer in chopper rides and a bar interior, but I found the 2.0 sounded more natural. The 5.1 can also be front and centre for great lengths of time, but it does enhance sounds when appropriate.

The Blu-ray comes with a reversible cover, some good liner notes that help remind of the era the film was made in and a bonus DVD version of the release…or the DVD comes with a bonus Blu, whichever floats your boat. The Blu has a 25 minute interview with Dolph about how he got to Red Scorpion and the film itself, a 15 minute interview with producer Jack Abramoff who describes some of the unusual conditions that lead to the film, and a 10 minute interview with your friend and mine Tom Savini. There's also a still/artwork gallery, Savini's on set footage, the trailer and TV spots and a commentary. The commentary is with director Joseph Zito and moderated by Nathaniel Thompson, and Zito explains he was more interested in making an action movie than the politics displayed in the film. As I said the before, the production was a bit troubled, so Zito has plenty to talk about, and the pair also delve into some of the different versions of the film released.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Red Scorpion is a bit overblown and over serious, and it's also a bit slow, but I don't think I could ever get enough of Dolph fucking up entire battalions so I enjoyed it. The Blu-ray itself is great quality, and it's not often we get a product this thorough for a movie like this for only $15.
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