Abramoff as Auteur: He Was No Run of De Mille Movie Mogul

(Shapiro-glickenhaus - Photofest)
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Aguy walks into a bar. The guy's a commie commando, a hulking Russian killing machine named Nikolai. The bar's in Africa and it's full of commie soldiers and the kind of loose women who consort with commie soldiers.

Nikolai stands in the doorway of the bar. He swigs from a pint of vodka. He burps. The burp is so loud that all conversation stops.

Nikolai -- who is played by Dolph Lundgren in this movie, which is called "Red Scorpion" -- stumbles around the bar. He sings in Russian. He knocks a guy off a bar stool. He head-butts another guy. He punches the bartender. He grabs a submachine gun out of a cop's hand and sprays the room with bullets.

"Are you out of your mind?" the head cop asks him when he stops shooting.

"No, just out of bullets," he replies. Then he lets out another thunderous burp.

Amazing! Not since Charlie Chaplin belched after eating his shoe in "The Gold Rush" has the lowly burp been used to such artistic effect. It's one of those rare moments of cinematic magic that leave you awed, wondering: Who is the genius behind this? Fellini? Spielberg? Stallone?

No, no and no. The correct answer is: Jack Abramoff.

That's right , the Jack Abramoff.

Before Abramoff was a powerful Washington lobbyist and Republican fundraiser, before he was indicted on fraud charges, before he became the target of a Justice Department investigation of his alleged rip-off of casino-rich Indian tribes, before he was summoned to a Senate hearing where he took the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify, Jack Abramoff was a Hollywood producer, a master of neo-"Rambo" cinema.

In 1989, Abramoff produced and co-authored "Red Scorpion," the Dolph Lundgren Cold War classic. In 1994, he produced "Red Scorpion 2" and, in the process, invented a whole new cinematic genre -- the sequel that has absolutely nothing to do with the original.

But Abramoff was not merely a producer. He was also a moral visionary: Between his first film, which was filled with violence, and his second film, which was also filled with violence, Abramoff founded an organization to crusade against sex and violence in film -- the Committee for Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment.

But Abramoff's brilliant career was interrupted by a force even greater than his genius: history.

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