Written by: Gary DeVore & Norman Wexler
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Darren McGavin, Sam Wanamaker
Working within the confines of the law stands as the rule for all but it becomes even more important for those who get charged with the duty to enforce it. However, when wrath and emotion get wrapped up in the basic need for vengeance, the end result makes for some blurring of lines and some moral gray areas. Raw Deal operates with this idea at a fairly flimsy level making for something fairly average and forgettable.
With no other options to go to for an investigation into a criminal organization, the FBI asks former agent, Mark Kaminski (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to come back and go undercover to bring them down. Once disgraced but now put in this position, he learns this assignment will give him a chance for revenge.
The early films of Arnold Schwarzenegger serve as an interesting observation of how his career progressed starting out in the late 60s and hitting its zenith in the late 80s and 90s. Watching them consecutively demonstrates the level of projects he would take on and which directors allowed him to shine while others left him out to dry as he tried to hone in on his acting abilities. One thing remained clear, as seen in Raw Deal is that he never turns down the opportunity to be a leading man and in some cases, like this film, he should have made a different decision.
Narratively, the bones of the feature display something that should provide some entertainment value. Certainly, one we have seen before where we have a former FBI agent who lost his job because he ended up harming a suspect. That certainly sounds horrible and not adhering to characteristics audiences should root for but then the truth reveals exactly why he beat that man. The suspect allegedly sexually assaulted and murdered a young girl. Instant vindication and we have the makings of a character who does not play by the rules when he feels his actions have justification, which will prove to be necessary when it comes to his next task.
Everything operating in this feature has this level of forgettability in it where it does not do anything particularly wrong but never does it provide something to excite through its narrative. All of it comes together in a fairly straightforward manner, which certainly served its purpose as a crime film centering around Arnold Schwarzenegger but nothing about the feature really pops. This thus leaves Schwarzenegger needing to utilize charisma to give the film an extra jolt, which at this stage of his career he did not fully possess. Instead, we have scenes that feel choppy and really break apart any momentum the film seeks to create and does not do Arnold any favors.
This lack of wow factor just lets the narrative play out the way it wants to but in the end, all you can do is shrug and move on because the film just happens and moves right along. It has the inklings of some interesting ideas where it involves discussions around revenge and what grudges can still be held years later and the detriment it can cause with its rippling effect as it impacts those surrounding Kaminski. However, this story comes with no nuance in it and no desire to explore anything deeper, which is fine if an audience member does not need it to be entertained, but it just did not work for me.
All in all, Raw Deal never provides anything to truly enjoy but it has pieces and elements meant to entertain. The film shows Arnold Schwarzenegger improving in his acting ability even when provided with direction and writing not doing him any favors whatsoever. A decent foundation exists to tell a story about revenge mixed with some crime drama in order to allow for some deception and intrigue to surround the story, but it all feels wasted in what the film lacks to capitalize on the structure it creates. Instead, a forgettable film comes of these pieces that could provide some mild entertainment for some but proved to be wholly forgettable as something no one involved claims as seminal work of theirs within their careers, and especially the man at the center of it all.