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Nikolai is a Russian Spetznaz agent assigned to murder the leader of an African rebel movement. When he encounters the guerrilla faction, Nikolai discovers that he is sympathetic to their cause and, plagued by doubt, he botches the assassination. After being captured by the rebels, he is left in the desert to die, but is rescued by local bushmen. He adopts their lifestyle and launches a revenge attack against his former employers.
For more about Red Scorpion and the Red Scorpion Blu-ray release, see Red Scorpion Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano, Brion James
Director: Joseph Zito
» See full cast & crew
Red Scorpion Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 13, 2012
Joseph Zito's "Red Scorpion" (1988) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Synapse Films. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; TV Spots; audio commentary with director Joseph Zito and Nathaniel Thompson; video interview with Dolph Lundgren; brand new video with producer Jack Abramoff; video interview with special make-up effects creator Tom Savini; motion still gallery; and more. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Here's a film that falls into the "it is so bad that it is actually good" category. It is called Red Scorpionand was released in 1988. It was directed by Joseph Zito, who also did The Prowler (1981), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), and Missing In Action (1984), and was apparently partially funded by a right-wing foundation which was linked to the South African government, which in the late '80s was working hard to undermine the African National Congress.
The film is about a Soviet supersoldier, Lt. Nikolai Rachenko (played by the Swedish hunk Dolph Lundgren, Rocky IV, Showdown in Little Tokyo), who is sent on to an unknown country in Africa to eliminate an influential anti-communist leader (Ruben Nthodi). Along the way Nikolai meets Kallunda (Al White, TV's Matlock), his target's right-hand man, and Dewey Ferguson (M. Emmet Walsh, Blade Runner, White Sands), a seriously annoying American journalist who can't stop swearing. They become friends after Nikolai manages to kill a rather large number of his countrymen deep into the desert. Eventually, Nikolai is introduced to his target, who immediately figures out what his intentions are.
Fastforward. Nikolai escapes in the desert, where he is bitten by a scorpion. Luckily, he is saved by a hilarious character with a pretty decent bag of tricks named Gao (whose haircut is pretty similar to that of the skinny fella from Jamie Uys' The Gods Must Be Crazy). The two become good friends and, after the Soviets destroy Gao's village, eventually Nikolai realizes that he has been defending the dark side. Then, he meets his target again and goes on a killing spree that impresses the American journalist.
Red Scorpion is a straightforward propaganda film which imitates another straightforward propaganda film that was released in 1988 - Peter MacDonald's Rambo III. Both targeted the Soviets, who at the time were trying to figure out how to get out of Afghanistan and look like winners. (The phased withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan began in 1988 and ended in 1989).
Rambo III was clearly the better film. It had a notably bigger budget, which meant bigger and more impressive explosions, better script and better cast. Unsurprisingly, however, it was as utterly unbelievable and loaded with moronic statements about freedom, democracy, honor and friendship as Red Scorpion. I don't think this mattered much, though, since I don't believe anyone expected Rambo III to deliver anything more than it did.
There are a couple of sequences in Red Scorpion where Lundgren handles his enemies as well as Stalone does his, but he tends to look a bit stiff in front of the camera. Thankfully, he does not talk much and takes his shirt off as often as possible.
The supporting cast isn't any better - Walsh tries too hard to be the annoying American he is supposed to be, White never really looks like a freedom fighter, while Nthodi simply looks bored. The only guy who genuinely looks enthusiastic about his job is the skinny bushman who plays Gao.
Ultimately, Red Scorpion is a film that would appeal only to hardcore Lundgren fans or folks who saw it back in the days and for whatever reasons now feel nostalgic about it. The younger crowds, with blood type Avatar, will be bored to tears by it.
Red Scorpion Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Joseph Zito's Red Scorpion arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Synapse Films.
The basics of this high-definition transfer appear practically identical to the ones of the high-definition transfer used for their Blu-ray release of Red Scorpion in the United Kingdom. Generally speaking detail and depth are quite nice, especially during close-ups. Most panoramic shots also convey pleasing fluidity. Light grain is visible throughout the entire film, though as it was the case with the Arrow release some extremely light noise is occasionally mixed with it. Color reproduction is adequate, and I don't see any major improvements to mention here (the back cover of this release notes that the Synapse Films used a new 2K High-Definition Digital Restoration). Compression also appears to be equally good. Lastly, there is at least one really tiny digital glitch on the transfer (it was pointed to me by one of our members), but I could not spot it during normal viewing. To sum it all up, this is pleasing presentation of Red Scorpion, which shold please its fans. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to view it on your PS3 or SA regardless or your geographical location).
Red Scorpion Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Synapse Films have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Synapse Films have included a 5.1 track which does open slightly more certain sequences throughout the film. A few of the shootouts, in particular, have decent movement in the surrounds. The overall dynamic movement remains rather limited, though the lossless track is not to be blamed for it. As I mentioned in our review of the UK release, more often than not it is quite obvious that Red Scorpion had a a fairly modest budget. The dialog is crisp, clean, and stable.
Red Scorpion Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Red Scorpion Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Synapse Film's Blu-ray release of Red Scorpion was clearly made for fans of the film. If you are one of them, you should consider adding it to your collection. If you already have the UK Blu-ray release, take a look at the supplemental features and see if they are a good enough reason to consider getting this release as well. As far as the technical presentation is concerned, there does not appear to be any gap in quality between the two.
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Red Scorpion Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Red Scorpion Blu-ray Detailed - March 28, 2012
Independent U.S. distributors Synapse Films have detailed their upcoming Blu-ray release of director Joseph Zito's Red Scorpion (1988), starring action star Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, and Al White. The preliminary release date set by the distributors is June ...
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