Published on March 21st, 2013 | by Clint Davis

Red Heat [1988]

Red Heat [1988] Clint Davis

Summary: An overlooked entry in Arnold's catalogue that works because of the chemistry between he and co-star Jim Belushi.


Solid Work

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R  |  103 min.

Director: Walter Hill  |  Screenplay: Walter Hill, Harry Kleiner, Troy Kennedy Martin

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Belushi, Ed O’Ross, Laurence Fishburne

Studio: Tristar Pictures

The 1980s were a time of ridiculous fashion, copious amounts of blow, and thanks to MTV–musicians going platinum based on their hairstyle alone.  In film history, the 80s are a fascinating period, as every movie that came out featured two things:

1) A theme song titled after the film.

2) At least one pair of naked breasts.

1988’s action-comedy blockbuster Red Heat includes only one of those staples (hint: there was no song called “Red Heat”), but this Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle features all the fun and laughs of his more notable work.  Also for no apparent reason, it features a cast that would make any director drool.

When setting out to review a Schwarzenegger movie, one doesn’t focus on criteria such as lighting, screenplay, or dramatic tension.  Instead, you keep it simple and judge factors like body count, variety of death scenes, and how intelligible is Arnold’s dialogue…that final criteria is completely optional, see: Hercules in New York.

The brilliance of Red Heat lies in the aforementioned casting.  As is the case with most of Schwarzenegger’s films, the movie will live and die by his co-star.  To illustrate, we look at a great movie like True Lies which works because director James Cameron was smart enough to cast Tom Arnold as the perfect comic-relief .  In contrast, a movie like Eraser completely sucked because compared to Vanessa Williams, Arnold is Jerry Seinfeld.

In Red Heat, Jim Belushi is able to keep the audience laughing while Arnold steps in, kicks ass, and gets a few (mostly intentional) laughs of his own.  It doesn’t end with Belushi though, the cast is also bolstered by heavyweight talent like Laurence Fishburn, Peter Boyle, and Ed O’-freaking-Ross (the consummate badass character actor who slayed as Nikolai on HBO’s Six Feet Under).

The plot revolves around Moscow Militia Captain Ivan Danko (Schwarzenegger), who is in pursuit of an evil Georgian drug lord named Viktor (O’Ross) that gunned down his partner in an arrest attempt at the beginning of the film.  Viktor flees Russia, eventually landing in Chicago where he is arrested by loud-mouthed police detective Art Ridzik (Belushi).  Ivan is sent to the Windy City where he’s tasked with escorting Viktor back to Moscow so he can face trial.  As you can guess, Viktor ends up escaping and leading the Odd Couple-esque Ivan & Art on a series of destructive chases through downtown Chicago.

Red Heat works because Belushi and Schwarzenegger are a perfect pairing.

Looking at it now, I’m not completely sure why Red Heat isn’t as widely-known as Arnold’s more celebrated work.  Although perhaps it has something to do with him portraying a Soviet official in the middle of the Cold War, or that the movie opens on a naked fight scene between The Governator and a large Samoan man in a Russian sauna (now I know where David Cronenberg got that idea for Eastern Promises!).

Of course, the buddy-cop genre was another staple of the 1980s and the success of those projects hinges on the chemistry between its “buddies”.  Red Heat succeeds for precisely this reason and this movie is a lot of fun to pop in after a few beers with your buddies and crank up the sound.  Also, Belushi and Schwarzenegger have some inspired dialogue exchanges, such as this gem:

Art: “You’re shitting me!”

Ivan: “I am not shitting on you.”

…Okay, so I guess you had to be there for that one.

Buy Red Heat now on Amazon.

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at

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