Monday 27 December 2010

Red Scorpion

Dolph Lundgren plays a Russian special forces soldier sent to an African country to help stop an anti-Communist rebellion.

Lundgren is tasked with killing the rebel leader, Sundata. However, upon witnessing the brutality of the pro-Soviet forces, Dolph decides to fight with the rebels and help their rebellion succeed.

The film opens with some dark, backlit, photographs of Dolph looking mean and moody, while a narrator tells us what a bad-ass the Big Swede is. We then cut to the Russian army HQ in Moscow where Dolph is brought into a room of top Generals for an incredibly long and dull scene of exposition.

In order to carry out his orders, Dolph has to find a way to get close enough to the rebel leader to assassinate him. He arranges for himself to be put in jail with Kallunda (Al White) the right hand man of the rebel leader who the Soviet forces have captured.

Dolph helps Kallunda escape along with Dewey Ferguson (M Emmet Walsh) an American journalist who's covering the conflict. The trio elude the pursuing Soviet troops and make for Sundata's camp. Having tricked his way into the rebel stronghold Lundgren attempts to kill Sundata. But his bid fails and he is left for the Soviet forces to find.

Dolph's failure isn't well received by his masters who decide to reward him with a spot of light torture with a set of knitting needles. Dolph escapes again - this time for real - from jail.

He wanders the desert until he's found by an old bushman. The old bushman makes Dolph a pair of sandals. Dolph is so humbled by this display of friendship that he renounces his Commie masters by tearing off his dog tags. The bushman then drugs Dolph and gives him a scorpion tattoo.

Dolph seeks out Kallunda again. He tells him he really is a deserter this time. Seeing the sandals and the tattoo Kallunda believes him. They team up and head off to kick some Commie butt.

The film climaxes with Lundgren leading an assault against his own Soviet forces and trying to hunt down their leader General Vortek. The General tries to make good an escape by taking to a Hind helicopter. However, it's only a few feet above the ground before Lundgren blows out the cockpit with a machine gun forcing the craft back down.

With his battle seemingly won Lundgren turns to leave, however, Vortek rallies briefly and is set to shoot Dolph in the back until some sixth sense warns the big Swede. He spins round and looses off with his machine gun blowing the Hind to smithereens.

Artistic merit

It's hard to find fault with a film which builds its conclusion around the explosion of a helicopter.

Made in the pre-CGI era there is a wonderful rich, blood orange explosion. The explosion has a richness and natural quality which is sadly often missing from many computer generated special effects.

There's also a double bang for your buck as the initial explosion which takes out the cockpit is superbly executed. When the helicopter is then ultimately blown to pieces the rotor blades continue to turn with the classic balletic beauty exploding helicopter fans have come to know and love.

Number of helicopters


Relevance to plot

Helicopters have a pleasingly prominent presence in the film.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Very little. Lundgren uses a conventional machine gun to bring down the chopper. The already crippled helicopter is then blown up on a landing pad with a well executed explosion.


There are lots of positives to this film. Not the least of which is Dolph's hair. It's shaved to the scalp at the sides, leaving a blonde strip on the top with a nice little cow lick at the front.

The film co-stars the great character actor M Emmet Walsh. He gives a typically garrulous performance as a rabidly anti-Communist American journalist. Walsh's character isn't big on journalistic impartiality as he has no hesitation in grabbing a gun and shooting Reds at every opportunity.

There's a also a small role for Brion James as a Soviet Army Sergeant. He seemed to specialise in playing sweaty, unshaven, henchmen and has had roles in Blade Runner, Tango & Cash, Red Heat and Bruce Willis's 'Die Hard on a Speedboat' flick Striking Distance. James doesn't really get anything cool to do in this apart from attempt a weird part Russian, part Afrikans accent.

There's also a great scene where Dolph shoots off the arm of a soldier who's about to throw a grenade at him. The soldier then crawls across the ground to try and get to his severed limb which is still holding the explosive. It won't surprise you to learn he doesn't make it in time.


Director Joseph Zito [Missing In Action] seems at some points in the film to be striving for something more than a simple propaganda action film. The sequences with Dolph and the bushman take place in near silence. It's not that the scenes are poorly handled or uninteresting, but they feel a bit out of place.

Favourite quote

"You must be out of your mind!"
"No, just out of bullets."

Interesting fact

The film virulent anti-Communist politics may partly be explained by the fact it was allegedly financed by the South African Defence Force through the a right wing think-tank it financed called the International Freedom Foundation. Producer and scriptwriter Jack Abramoff helped run said foundation.

Review by: Jafo

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