That's preeeeeeeetty much the plot summary for Red Scorpion right there too. Red Scorpion, filmed after that one-two punch of Rocky IV and Masters of the Universe, stars Dolph Lundgren as Soviet Spetsnaz soldier
Red Scorpion is...yeah, definitely a mid-to-late '80s action flick, with all the bulging pecs, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery, manic high-speed chases, Jeeps flipping over, endless sprays of gunfire, and shit blowing up that you demand. I mean, it's comfort food, and part of that's playing exactly like a big stack of the action movies that Cannon was churning out in those days. Hell, they even got Invasion U.S.A. and Missing in Action's Joseph Zito to hop into the director's chair. There's not a whole lot to separate Red Scorpion from the rest of that one-man-army-for-truth-justice-and-the-not-Communist-way bunch. Sure, the couple of standout action sequences are more than a little bit badass. The African backdrop makes for some pretty spectacular visuals at times. The plight of the tormented Africans themselves packs more of a sincere emotional wallop than these sorts of action flicks usually do. Tom Savini contributes a couple of grisly make-up effects pieces that make for some of Red Scorpion's most brilliantly cringing moments. Plus you score Dolph Lundgren in the lead, and you're never gonna hear me complain about that. There's kind of a visceral thrill seeing Lundgren
There's just not a whole lot of review to write here. Red Scorpion's good enough, but if I didn't have to sit down and hammer out this write-up after seeing it again for the first time in however many years, it'd be a distant memory about twenty seconds after the fact. I like Red Scorpion, but it's really, really, really routine. Because his character is a coldly manufactured weapon whose heart is only just now starting to beat, Dolph Lundgren can't exude the sort of personality or charisma that usually draws you in with '80s action flicks. M. Emmett Walsh's grating comic relief journalist scores nothing but groans throughout just about every last frame of screentime he gets. The movie kinda takes a while to get going -- Red Scorpion starts not with a bang but with a conference room -- and the pace has a tendency to sputter once the adrenaline rush of its action sequences has worn off. It's beyond awesome that Synapse Films has restored an uncensored version of Red Scorpion that's never been seen on these shores before, but with as badly as the middle stretch of the flick sags, I wish it were shorter rather than heading in the other direction.
Red Scorpion is an okay-to-pretty-good action flick from the tail-end of the '80s. I mean, it's not the sort of movie you're likely to speak about with hushed awe like Predator or Die Hard. It's not the sort of movie you're likely to speak about, period. Still, there's just something about these Cannon-inspired shitkickers that I can't get enough of, and I'm always game to pal around with Dolph Lundgren in 1080p. Even if you're not all that bowled over by Red Scorpion itself, the story behind the movie -- a 19-year-old king giving the production the boot a week before cameras were slated to roll, the looming spectre of Apartheid stomping all over distribution, and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff having conceived and produced the whole thing in his earlier years -- is pretty damned impressive, and all of that's covered in great detail throughout the extras on this Blu-ray disc. The movie itself is nothing all that great or noteworthy or whatever, but you know if you're a sucker for this flavor of action flick, and if you are, Red Scorpion definitely comes Recommended.
As you'd probably expect from a shiny, new Blu-ray disc with Synapse's logo stamped on the cover, Red Scorpion looks pretty much perfect. The filmic texture of the original photography has correctly been left intact, not
The AVC encode for Red Scorpion spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. The presentation is presented without any matting, so you score a few extra scanlines' worth of the original photography.
This Blu-ray disc piles on two 24-bit lossless soundtracks: one in Red Scorpion's original stereo and the the other newly-remixed to 5.1. When I say that Red Scorpion doesn't sound like a remix at all, I absolutely mean that as a compliment. The aggressive use of the surrounds throughout the action sequences coupled with the sheer number of smooth pans from channel to channel...I mean, it all sounds so organic and so natural that if I didn't know better, I'd probably have assumed this is how Red Scorpion was always mixed. The elements used for this remix are in terrific shape, sounding at least a few years more recent than they actually are. The low-end really rattles the room while reinforcing all those megaton explosions and throaty engines. Every once in a while, I'd feel like there's too much bass -- as if such a thing were even possible -- and dialogue sometimes slinks a little further into the background than I would've preferred. The balance is generally spot-on, though. There's one point after a high-speed chase where the actors' breathing and slivers of dialogue bleed into the surrounds, and that's a little distracting. This is probably veering head-on into irrational nitpicking, but I was kind of surprised that the shotgun blasts that kick off the final siege sound so meek compared to the other havoc being wrought. Whatever, though. This is a really, really great remix, and I think even the most die-hard purists will be impressed by how well-done it is.
Red Scorpion also sports a set of optional English subtitles, captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing. Oh, and the disc's commentary is also a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track, so that's kind of amazing too.
Red Scorpion is a combo release, packing in an anamorphic widescreen DVD in case you haven't made the leap to Blu-ray or just don't have a BD player handy while you're out and about. The reversible cover gives fans their choice of art, and there's a very detailed set of liner notes tucked inside penned by Dolph Lundgren über-fan Jérémie Damoiseau. Both the DVD and Blu-ray disc are region-free/all-region for those of you on the other side of the ocean.
The impressively hefty list of extras keeps going from there too.
The Final Word
Red Scorpion is a mostly routine '80s action flick, but if you were weaned on Cannon asskickers or are just a sucker for Dolph Lundgren, this Blu-ray disc's definitely worth checking out. The high-def remaster and six-channel remix are both first-rate, there are a hell of a lot of extras for this sort of movie, and it's all of fifteen bucks on Amazon. Recommended.
A Few Extra Screengrabs...