Going commando - Page 2

Much fisting! The multiple muscle-sploitation joys of Jack Abramoff and Dolph Lundgren's Red Scorpion

Now this is art

The climactic triumphant popular uprising at one point hinges on Lundgren lifting a truck out of a sandtrap with his bare bulging guns, a bit included purportedly because Jack Abramoff was an iron-pumping addict himself at the time. (What makes the scene funnier is that it evidently occurred to no one that Nikolai's load would be lightened if Walsh got his fat ass out of the truck cab for a minute.)

A movie rife with bad dialogue badly spoken — you'll gulp as White seemingly enthuses "When we arrive there will be a celebration and much fisting!" — ends aptly with the worst pronunciation ever of "Fucken' A." Our heroes are then freeze-framed while strolling over another umpteen freshly killed Commies.

Red Scorpion was shrugged off as what it basically was, yet another Rambo ripoff arriving toward the tail end of that subgenre's lifespan. (A theatrical flop, it did well enough on tape and cable to prompt 1994's in-name-only sequel Red Scorpion 2, on which the Abramoffs got executive producer credits.) There certainly are more cheap, inept, laughable, senseless, just plain dumb films of its ilk — though this one does excel at dumbness — and unlike many it does have one good joke, involving a grenade and a decapitated hand. Otherwise, if not for its primary motivator's subsequent antics, Red Scorpion would be just another forgotten B-grade cultural relic.

But the Beverly Hills-raised Abramoff — who spent the earlier part of the 1980s as an aggressive far-right youth activist — intended this first-last cinematic venture as a stealth combo of dynamite popular entertainment and anti-Red Menace propaganda. He modeled the character of "Mombaka's" resistance savior Sundata (played by Ruben Nthodi) on real-life Angolan anti-Marxist rebel warlord Jonas Savimbi, a darling of later Cold War hawks. (Others would soon call him "a charismatic homicidal maniac.")

It is still debated whether Red Scorpion's $16 million budget was secretly funded primarily by the South African government and/or military. Abramoff denies it — though he had already spearheaded support of the apartheid regime as College Republican National Committee chairman and founder of the dubiously named think tank, International Freedom Foundation. In any case, once protestors got wind of the production shooting in South Africa-controlled Namibia — defying an international boycott — a skittish Warner Bros. pulled out as distributor. (Scorpion was then picked up in the U.S. by Shapiro-Glickenhaus, who later gave us 1990's Frankenhooker and 1992's Basket Case 3: The Progeny.)

The shoot was fraught. Some actors and crew complained they were never paid; production was suspended for three months when money ran out; star attraction Lundgren was apparently quite the hulking handful on and off set. Afterward, Abramoff — who'd converted to Orthodox Judaism at age 12 after seeing Fiddler on the Roof (1971) — blamed the film's potty-mouthed and violent excesses on director Joseph Zito (of future Tea Party fan Chuck Norris' own 1985 anti-Commie classic Invasion U.S.A.) He founded something called the Committee For Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment as penance.

That noble latter endeavor was abandoned about five seconds later, however, since by then Abramoff realized he had better things to do than mess around with pansy-ass showbiz. Among his future, better-known achievements — the ones that got him top billing as Inmate 27593-112 — were bilking casino-owning Native American tribes, keeping third world factory sweatshops safe from investigation, pimping Congress to myriad corporations, and otherwise pedaling corruption 'round the globe, all while clutching family values and raving against the Godforsaken liberals. He was ever so righteous about doing wrong.

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