Red Scorpion

Director - Joseph Zito

Cast - Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh

Country of Origin - USA

Discs - 2

MSRP - $29.95

Distributor - Synapse

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (4/5)

  

   I just have to get this out of the way, but Dolph Lundgren is my all-time favorite action hero of all-time.  From The 60's to the present, in my world the man has never been topped. From the moment I first saw him in Rocky IV (quite possibly the only element of that film I enjoyed), I knew I was a fan. I have watched his DTV stuff like Command Performance (where Dolph plays a drummer in a rock band) to He-Man in Masters of the Universe, and while not as accurate to the comic as I would have liked I have always enjoyed his Punisher.  That being said before this Blu-ray I have NEVER seen Red Scorpion, and after seeing it I have to wonder why I didn't dig it up way sooner.

 

   Red Scorpion is not just a Dolph Lundgren movie, fuck man, it is THEE Dolph Lundgren movie. I know it's been written before, but this is pretty much the sequel to Rocky IV that you never could have imagined, as if Ivan Drago due to his failure as a boxer was brainwashed and turned into Soviet super killing machine Nikolai Rachenko! This stuff pretty much writes itself. Anyway, the film stars Dolph as well Soviet super killing machine Nikolai Rachenko, who is dropped into Africa to invade a rebel encampment, and take out it's leader. 

 

     In order to do this Nikolai gets shit-faced on vodka, gets his ass thrown into Jail with 2 rebels including an American journalist. To prove his loyalty to the duo,  he takes out a prison guard, and breaks them out, thus proving he has betrayed the USSR, and  joined the rebels. Fooling them was easy, fooling their leader not so much, and  this gets him jailed  by the rebels and turned back over to the communist Cubans,  who torture him for information. Nikolai ends up escaping, and runs into an African bush man who introduces him to the real atrocities his people have inflicted upon his people.  It is at this point Nikolai  has a change of heart, and picks up a gun to rebel against the communist, and help the rebels take the down!

 

     OK, so let me get this out of the way in case the synopsis didn't do this for you. Red Scorpion is a very 80's action movie.  It has a very deep anti-communist message that could have only been produced under the Reagan regime. I have always asserted that genre movies tend to reflect the time they were created both politically and socially. Normally, I feel science fiction reflects this best, but in the 80's it would appear action films tended to encapsulate the decade quite well. This was the era of Chuck Norris and Cannon Films (coincidentally Red Scorpion was directed by Joseph Zito who directed Norris in a handful of Cannon/Norris films earlier in the decade),  and Rambo going from rebel to Reaganite. The icing on the cake for Red Scorpion is the fact that film was produced by none other than infamous Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff (interviewed on this disc!).

 

   All of this is, of course, subtext.  What we have for the running time of Red Scorpion is a ripping good action  film with one of the greatest leading men in the history of action  cinema. There is a lot of running and gunning, amazing chases,  and kick-ass stunts many of which are performed by Dolph himself.  To add further excitement to the proceedings Joseph Zito brought over his FX Artist from Friday the 13th : The Final Chapter the immortal Tom Savini (Maniac, Dawn of the Dead) who did some really great grisly effects work for this film.

 

   So basically, you have a kick ass lead actor, amazing action well-directed by a director who knows his way around fun 80's action cinema, and bloody well-executed violence from one of the greatest practical FX artist to ever walk the Earth.  What are you waiting for, watch this movie!

 

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

 

   Synapse Films have done it again! Red Scorpion has entered the Blu-ray realm with a glorious  1:78:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is filmlike and gorgeous.  The level of detail is simply excellent, and the film has a healthy level of grain throughout, while color reproduction is absolute stunning. The black levels are extremely deep, and flesh tones are accurate.  This is Red Scorpion looking it's absolute best.

 

     Synapse have presented Red Scorpion with 2 audio options both in English.  A DTS-HD Master Audio track Stereo 2.0 track and a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Since I tend to watch films as close to their original intended form as possible I stuck to the 2.0 track for much of my viewing, but toggled over to the 5.1 for the purpose of this review.  Both tracks are quite solid, with the effects such as explosions, crashes, etc taking center stage and really packing a sonic punch. The dialogue, music, and  effects are mixed well with no element overpowering any other in the mix. The dialogue is clean and crisp and audible  throughout.  Synapse have been awesome enough to include  optional English subtitles on Red Scorpion!

 

Extras (5/5)

 

     Synapse have put together what can only be described as a truly definitive package for Red Scorpion.  This release is packed to the brim with awesome extras, for fans of the film new and old, and there is definitely something for everyone.  The disc kicks off with an audio commentary with Joseph Zito moderated by Nathaniel Thompson of the website Mondo Digital. Zito is a great listen, and covers pretty much every facet of the production one could want to know about from the production, down to the various edits of the film, and more. 

 

   We then get to the featurettes which start with Hath No Fury: The Road to Red Scorpion,  a 25 minute interview with Dolph Lundgren which acts as a career overview, how he got his start in acting, and touches on Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe, etc, however most of the discussion time here is obviously on Red Scorpion.  We then have what I considered the most surprising extra on the disc a 13 minute interview called Assignment Africa with Red Scorpion producer and infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  When Synapse announced the interview I assumed it was show while he was still in prison, it turns out he is already out. Abramoff ends up being quite an interesting interview discussing how the film was put together the difficulty in getting a steady shooting location, and being forced to shoot in an area that was part of apartheid in the 80's. A really interesting interview from the producers perspective that really shows the difficulty in getting this film  made. We then have Scorpion Tales, a 10 minute interview Special FX wizard  Tom Savini. He discusses the sequences he worked on for the film, having to take his family to Africa for the work, and the hardships they faced because of it, and more.  Tom is always a great interview, and this is no exception, the only problem is it is very short, but there is a ton of information and interesting anecdotes packed in to the running time. We then  have 9 minutes of Tom Savini's home movies from the set of Red Scorpion, it shows the production of the film from Tom's perspective with a focus on his FX sequences.  The disc is rounded off by a 7 minute motion stills gallery, the films trailer in HD, and a few minutes worth of TV spots!

 

Overall

 

   Not just a Dolph Lundgren movie, but quite possibly THE Dolph Lundgren movie. Red Scorpion comes to Blu-ray in a fantastic looking (and sounding) High Definition transfer from Synapse Films.  This disc is loaded  with extras, and comes with a spare DVD if you haven't made the upgrade or need some Dolph action cinema whilst on the road.  The movie is fun violent 80's action cinema with one of it's greatest action heroes doing what he does best! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!