Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Red Heat from StudioCanal and Lionsgate.
As a kid growing up in the ’80s, no one was bigger physically or publicly than Arnold Schwarzenegger, metaphorically speaking. If you weren’t around during the former Mr. Olympia’s entertainment reign of the 1980s, words can’t describe how much Arnold Schwarzenegger filtered into the pop culture zeitgeist. He was, and still is, more than just a man: he’s a brand, and Schwarzenegger knows this. Schwarzenegger knows the right notes to play and strikes them when they need to be played. How could he go from becoming a U.S. citizen to playing the villainous titular character in The Terminator to Danny De Vito‘s twin brother in Twins to Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during George H.W. Bush’s presidency in less than ten years? Say what you will about him, but Arnold Schwarzenegger knows how to get things done.
From 1982 through 1996, the Golden Age of the Schwarzenegger Era, if you will, Arnold headlined many films, sometimes more than one a year. Being the marketing juggernaut and guru he is, very few of his productions were misfires. Everyone knows the box office hits with the first two Terminator and Conan films, plus Predator and True Lies. Some actors would want those films for a career; Schwarzenegger did them within a decade. With such an output, there are movies that will not resonate critically or financially.
Let’s dive into one of those as we look at the 4K edition of 1988’s Red Heat.
While not an outright failure, Red Heat is a Schwarzenegger film that no one would consider top-tier. It’s not iconic, nor did it break the bank at the box office, but it does everything correctly for a movie of this type. The disappointment around Red Heat is unfortunate as it is “Peak Arnold,” made at the height of his powers and directed by Walter Hill, whose films I must be subliminally craving right now. There’s nothing abjectly wrong with the movie; it’s full of solid action, tense directing, and witty banter between Arnold and his co-star, Jim Belushi. It’s good. Maybe that sounds like a negative as one might expect more, but it delivers on everything one would expect from late-80’s Schwarzenegger.
Usually, when a movie like Red Heat doesn’t live up to expectations, so does the physical media release. Thankfully, the 4K release of Red Heat packs just enough firepower to leave fans of the film satisfied, if a bit hollow.
The first feature, “Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Man Who Raised Hollywood,” is a 15-minute retrospective of persons throughout Schwarzenegger’s career recalling their times on set with him. Producer Edward Pressman, director Peter Hyams and others chime in with their experiences working with Schwarzenegger. “The Man Who Raised Hollywood” works as a puff piece to elevate Schwarzenegger to God-like status. No one has anything negative to say about the Austrian Oak, but Hyams especially shares a handful of stories from End of Days that made for a fun listen. I might have enjoyed this more because I am a die-hard fan of Schwarzenegger, but there’s nothing essential on this feature.
“The Political Context of Red Heat” is a brief discussion of the film’s context with author Dave Saunders. Saunders talks about the film’s positive showcasing of the Russian people, which allowed shooting in Red Square, the subtleties of the War on Drugs, and a pivotal time in the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If there was more time to deep-dive the topics brought up, there could have been something substantial with “The Political Context of Red Heat.” As is, there’s plenty of surface-level detail brought up, but those looking for an in-depth analysis won’t find it here.
The next feature, “East Meets West,” is an older feature that sits down with producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar. The two men briefly talk about the beginnings of their production company, Carolco, before diving into their experiences in the production. Even if “East Meets West” is almost 20 years old, it is a welcome addition to this 4K package. Vajna and Kassar talk about how Red Heat came to be, shooting in Russia, snippets of behind-the-scenes footage, and their thoughts about the final product.
Another feature included in past releases of Red Heat is “A Stuntman For All Seasons.” This featurette is a retrospective of various stuntmen coming together to talk about the late stunt performer Bennie Dobbins. The first half of this short-but-sweet feature has friends and associates in his trade recalling his life and career. Andrew Vajna chimes in to talk about his work on Red Heat and how he passed away while on set. While not an exhaustive look back on Dobbins’ career, this is a nice sendoff for a man who put a lot of time and effort into Red Heat.
The last featurette, “I’m Not A Russian (But I Play One on TV),” is another interview from a previous Red Heat physical media release. Actor Ed O’Ross sits down to talk about his experiences playing the film’s villain, Viktor Rosta. I’ll be honest, this interview is extremely brief and not worth your time. O’Ross talks about how he concocted the villainous role and his performance on Six Feet Under, but I was shocked at how quickly “I’m Not A Russian” ended.
The 4K release also features the original making-of featurettes crafted during the film’s production. While being studio puff pieces, these features compile the most behind-the-scenes footage of any of the bonus materials on the disc, and the only time we hear comments from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jim Belushi. Nothing about this will blow your hair back, but those looking for behind-the-scenes information will have to bite the bullet and enjoy what these pieces offer.
Capping off the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer.
And there you have it! Red Heat does the job to quench your thirst for an enjoyable 80s action romp that will not strain your brain. It’s “Peak Arnold.” Nothing more. Nothing less. And just like the film, the supplemental material is simple, enjoyable, and a bit hollow. If that’s all you need, then this 4K disc is the one worth seeking out.