Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, Last Man Standing), Red Heat is a buddy cop movie with a twist. A Chicago cop is paired with a Soviet cop to stop drug smugglers. While it is certainly not the best example of ’80’s action, it is a decent enough movie that is actually saved by it’s straight-faced presentation. While it seems like a funny concept near the end of the Cold War, it is played very straight with slight comedy coming from Belushi. When all is said and done, it is a fairly by-the-numbers action film with two guys who couldn’t be more different. And isn’t that what a buddy cop movie is all about? Pairing two guys together who couldn’t be more different then watching the antics that ensue? Yes, that is what a buddy cop movie is all about! (See the Lethal Weapon series, Die Hard with a Vengeance)
After Captain Ivan Danko’s ambush of Georgian crime lord Viktor Rostavili backfires, Viktor escapes to America where he is trying to set up a large shipment of cocaine back to the Soviet Union. Sent to America by his superiors, Danko is paired with loudmouthed Chicago cop Art Ridzik, who is more of a cab driver for the Soviet cop. Together, they chase Viktor around Chicago in attempts to capture him to be sent back to the Soviet Union.
Is Red Heat a good movie? Sort of. It is an interesting take on a buddy cop film, placing a Soviet cop with a Chicago cop, but there really is nothing new at play. As I stated before, it is fairly by-the-numbers. Is it entertaining? Yes, yes it is. It is a perfect example of an ’80’s action film where the cops get away with just about everything under the sun, all the while being threatened by their superiors to tone it down. Of course, in the end they prevail by ignoring their superiors.
As I was watching this, one thing I noticed was the sheer amount of future stars in it. Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, Everybody loves Raymond), Gina Gershon (Showgirls, Face/Off), a pre-Laurence Larry Fishburne (The Matrix, Predators) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Identity, The Walking Dead). While Peter Boyle was known before this, most of the others were known only marginally. I was very surprised to see all of them in this film.
Schwarzenegger does well playing the Soviet cop Ivan Danko. He plays it straight faced and his one liners are actually kept to a minimum. It is a somewhat quiet performance from a loud actor. It is somewhat refreshing. Belushi, on the other hand, is loud and foul mouthed, as every Chicago cop was in the late ’80’s. (Ok, not really. Movie stereotype.) The two couldn’t be more different which provides for a couple of pretty funny moments. Sadly, there could have been a lot more comedy if they weren’t so dead set on making sure the Soviet police and Soviet Union in general wasn’t offended.
Overall, if you are looking for a nice ’80’s action film, you could do worse than Red Heat. It is an interesting buddy cop film that is worth seeing at least once. I originally saw this in the theater (yes, I was like 12; Ah, the good old days when theaters didn’t care how old you were . . .) and remembered it fondly. Strangely, it actually held up pretty much to what I remembered. While there are a couple problems with the film, they certainly don’t detract from the entertainment value. (The punching sounds in the beginning are so bad that I thought they were yanked straight from the ’70’s.)
** out of ****