Red Scorpion (1988) is an action film.
Directed by Joseph Zito (The Prowler (1981), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)).
Written by Arne Olsen (Cop and a Half (1993), Repeaters (2010)), Jack Abramoff and Robert Abramoff.
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano, Alex Colon and others.
Once again Dolph Lundgren plays a Russian, however, this time he’s the good guy. For the most part. He’s a Soviet Spetsnaz trained, KGB agent sent to an African country to fight the damn anti-communists. Oh, you can stop right there, I see where this is going. I saw Avatar, I know he’s eventually going to join them, because his higher-up is a major asshole. Get it? Major? Because he’s a soldier? Ah, nevermind.
His first night there, Lundgren gets drunk, gets into a fight with a couple of people, speaks gibberish with a Russian accent, sings an amusingly senseless rendition of the anthem of USSR and other things that are supposed to make us believe he is truly a Russian guy with Russian guy troubles, which are mostly remembering his native language should contain at least some actual, existing words.
Obviously he’s too Russian for some people, so some officers come by and throw Nikolai Lundgren into a jail cell. There he spends about an hour pondering his devotion to his country and he figures that since they are treating him like a huge, violent and drunk guy, while torturing someone else, he’s on the wrong side.
So he teams up with an African man and an American reporter and they escape the prison. The reporter, played by M. Emmet Walsh, really hates Nikolai for being „a fucking ruskie”, let me guess, they’re going to be pals by the end of the movie. Spoilers. Yes. Yes they are.
For some reason, the only music you can hear in Africa is that of Little Richard. Seriously, there’s at least 6 fucking instances of Little Richard on the soundtrack. I like him alright, but it doesn’t make sense. Is this an homage to Predator or something? I don’t get it.
Lundgren is sort of ok, but most of the time I can’t even understand half of his dialogue, the role is completely one-dimensional and the whole movie is exploitative of the 80’s action hero cheese craze, for example, having Nikolai getting ready to go swimming, with no other purpose than to have him shirtless for an entire action sequence. And I’ve always liked him better as a villain, Rocky IV, Universal Soldier, never cared that much for him as a protagonist.
The action scenes are not very memorable, maybe except a couple of bits during the climax. Nikolai (at this point randomly smeared himself with black paint, because that’s the best camouflage in the desert) is fighting like hundreds of military guys and then suddenly one of them appears with no shirt on and holding a knife. Why? Did he think he’s the protagonist? Stand out moment is when Nikolai shoots a guy’s arm off. That was nice.
Red Scorpion is basically a First Blood knock-off, having both Nikolai and Rambo be disillusioned by their service to the country. But, while Rambo was actually an interesting character and the movie did comment on aspects of Vietnam, Red Scorpion is stylistically more similar to later Rambo movies and having this overblown action, an actually dumb hero, and the Cold War propaganda so blunt and heavy-handed, that it just doesn’t hit any intelectual or emotional beats.
There’s also another part of the movie, which just comes out of nowhere. Nikolai starts hanging out with some bushmen and for a while it becomes this odd buddy movie having his relationship with one of the bushmen resemble that of Robinson Crusoe and Friday, surprisingly this is the most enjoyable part of the movie.
Overall, it’s dumb, not consistently entertaining, entirely forgettable. It’s just your typical B-grade 80’s action flick, lacking anything that would make it stand out from the other one and somehow made on an almost A-budget. Not recommended.