Red Heat (1988) (part 4 of 4)

Back at his hovel, the desk clerk dutifully delivers messages to Danko. It turns out Cat wants to get off scot-free, and will give up Rosta for the promise of immunity. Meanwhile, as Ridzic is working overtime for the first time in his life to finish paperwork, he gets a voicemail from his ex-brother-in-law, who needs to talk about his sister. Wow, that was such a completely random and benign occurrence that it must not mean a thing.

And remember that whole “key” intrigue from earlier? You may have forgotten, because it’s been nearly seven minutes since anyone mentioned or looked at the key, but now it looms in the forefront once again. In his room, Danko is staring at the key. Across the street, Rosta and a room full of hoods are all watching him with binoculars, because one of Moscow’s Finest obviously wouldn’t think to draw his shades at night.

The hoods watch him hide the key in the bezel of the overhead light. Which is clever on numerous fronts.

Rosta now returns to face the slimy desk clerk, who asks if he wants his old room back (#303), but this is utter foolishness. Danko is staying in that room! It’s right there in the ledger! Rosta beats the clerk unconscious and marches upstairs, telling the gang members to break into room #302.

In #302, they encounter a hooker in bed, leaving us to grapple with the concept of the stoic Ivan Danko succumbing to Western vices during his brief stay. Or did he? The prostitute tells them he’s in the bathroom, and they open fire on the door. A pudgy white guy falls to the floor, dead from lead poisoning. One hood shouts that Viktor set them up, but he doesn’t explain how exactly they were set up, or for what purpose.

But it appears Viktor wanted the key for himself, and here logistics go out the window like a fat Samoan at a Russian bath house. Danko hears the gunshots and leaves his room. Meanwhile, Viktor walks down a long hallway, even though he only needs to get to the room next door, and somehow they never pass each other.

Viktor goes into room #303 and retrieves the key, while Danko encounters the hoods and enjoys a gunfight. Danko is almost killed, but the hooker pulls a gun and wastes the last guy. Danko and Viktor are now stalking each other, and Danko is given away when his watch alarm goes off. Somehow, Viktor couldn’t locate him before that, even though the hooker was beside him the whole time, chattering away like a parakeet.

Then something really odd occurs. For all the fun to be had watching Jim Belushi burn shoe leather throughout this movie, the award for the goofiest running actually goes to Schwarzenegger.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

“This is me, running and acting!”

Viktor escapes by being the fourth person in this film to jump out of a window. Danko can only watch as Viktor splashes into the river below.

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Meanwhile, a TV news report announces that Cat Manzetti’s corpse was found by police, thereby ending the time she spent distracting everyone and not moving the plot forward. At the morgue, the two cops are yelled at some more by their superior, this time for the hotel shootout.

Since Ridzic was “this close to being fired” when this movie began, he must really be on the verge of approaching finding himself on the brink of nearly coming to the threshold of potential dismissal by now.

However, Ridzic is reinvigorated because as the screenplay luck would have it, his ex-brother-in-law is a locksmith. This allows us to get back to the key subplot, which is good, because it’s been ignored for almost three whole scenes now. He and Danko pay a visit to Pat, the ex-brother-in-law, played by 1980s go-to goofy character actor Michael Hagerty.

Pat allows Danko to paw through his lock and security system guidebooks, while he and Ridzic get into a loud argument about his sister and alimony payments. It’s almost as if he’s doing a favor for someone he detests. This distraction allows Danko to locate the key, the serial number, and the location of the locker, which is at the bus depot. Damn, if he kept poring through those old manuals, he’d probably learn what time Rosta’s arriving.

Next, we watch as Rosta exchanges the key with a gang member at a coffee stand at the bus depot. Which means fooling the gang at the hotel was completely unnecessary.

It turns out the locker contains a suitcase of cash for the incoming drugs. But Rosta double crosses the hood in the bathroom, leaving him to die on the toilet like Elvis.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

I never know how much to tip the men’s room attendant.

Outside, Rosta meets a courier on the curb, out in the open, to collect the drugs. Guess these bus depots are full of dodgy and corrupt individuals, just like people say. After he loads the baggage, Danko and Ridzic both pull guns on Rosta, then they begin to bicker over who gets to arrest him, allowing the guy to escape.

This then leads to the most plausible of car chases, using two buses.

As Viktor drives off, Danko commandeers his own Greyhound to pursue him through the streets of Chicago. Wanton destruction ensues as Danko plows through monuments, and Viktor mows down a line of parking meters and parked cars. Very impressive visuals, but muted slightly by the lack of any other cars on the road to cause these crashes.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

Look, you’re not supposed to drive like the citizens from your destination marker.

The editors apparently had a hard time in this section, as far as lining up reaction shots of the riders with the actions of the other vehicle. Belushi yells just before Viktor’s bus crashes through a glass entranceway, and thanks to the editing, it crashes through four times by my count. And so, by shredding half of the downtown area, Ridzic certainly has new punishments coming his way. Imagine the paperwork he’ll have to fill out now!

Like all good Russian bus chases, this one ends in traditional fashion: with a game of chicken. The buses accelerate toward each other, and Ridzic makes them swerve at the last moment, and their bus flips as Viktor is T-boned by a passing train. We aren’t done, however; the two Soviets now decide to square off against each other.

Danko marches from his wreck to where his quarry ended up, going through the steam to find him. Hey, remember how the movie started out with clouds of steam? Looks like we’ve come full circle on that motif! Now if only it meant anything at all. Then it would certainly be impressive.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

“American steam is nothing compared to superior Soviet steam.”

With Danko mere feet away, Rosta goes through a litany of villain clichés. He doesn’t hide, he yells loudly before firing, and he squeezes off a few rounds before Danko can draw his weapon. Of course, he misses him completely. After not flinching, and making the bullets miss him by sheer force of will, Danko ventilates Rosta.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

“I see what you mean about the humidity in this town.”

Cut to Ridzic giving Danko an emotional sendoff at the airport. Cue me looking for a bottle of Stolichnaya.

As I wait for the vodka to hit my cortex, let’s do a rundown on the buddy-cop conventions checklist:

  1. The Cop Model: Says Donnelly, “Ridzic is a good cop. And an expert at fucking up.” CHECK
  2. Polar Opposite Partner: While Ridzic was drooling over hookers and nurses, Danko disgustedly caught site of a porn film in his hotel room and said dismissively, “Cop-it-all-ism.” CHECK
  3. Illegal Techniques: Breaking fingers, threatening crooks, shooting places up… Oh, yeah, CHECK
  4. Blatant Screw-ups: A three-fer! There was that hospital getting shot to hell, the hotel massacre, and the bus crashes. CHECK
  5. Boss Scolding: After being told policy means he’s off the case, Donnelly gives no less than two more lectures to Ridzic for tearing up the town. CHECK
  6. Secret Casework: Even though we often hear Danko is supposed to be put on the first plane to Moscow, he repeatedly heads out with Ridzic to work on the case. CHECK
  7. Professional Bonding: The cops get numerous lessons on the protocol used in both their countries, leading to that tender moment in the diner. CHECK
  8. Culminating Disaster: How do you trump the fiasco in the hospital and the hotel? How about a Greyhound wrecking crew? Yes, that works just fine. CHECK

That puts our score at a solid 8/8. Send prints into theaters immediately!

The biggest irony of all is the backstory of filming the scenes in Moscow. Walter Hill once told a story about how a European movie outfit aided him in getting into the (at that time) closed off Russian capital. They commissioned a midnight flight and landed in Russia with a bare bones crew and one camera. They quietly found a hotel, and then decked out Arnold in a Russian police uniform.

They filmed guerilla-style in Red Square, with Schwarzenegger looking so convincing that he was calmly approached by other Russian officers and asked a few questions. Soon, Arnold was recognized by some locals, and after drawing attention, the crew beat a retreat to the hotel and packed up, flying out after two abbreviated days of filming. This was how they were able to tout these scenes as the first ever shot by a Western film crew inside Soviet Russia.

That was an amazing tale. Very engaging and dramatic. Ironically enough, the film they were shooting turned out to be exactly the opposite.

Multi-Part Article: Red Heat (1988)

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