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‘Red Scorpion’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 22, 1989

"Red Scorpion" is "Rambo" with a Russian accent, the African nation of "Mombaka" standing in for Afghanistan or Vietnam, and Dolph Lundgren impersonating Sylvester Stallone impersonating a trained killing machine. One guesses that "Nikolai" lacks the resonance of "Rocky" and "Rambo"; instead, the title is taken from the scorpion carved into Lundgren's bountiful chest after he's rescued by Bushmen. This affords him the time to switch allegiance from his communist taskmasters to the oppressed rebel forces. Seems Nikolai is the same kind of deep thinker as Rambo, slow but easily bothered by weighty moral issues: After all, it takes him more than an hour to figure out he's on the wrong side in a nasty little war.

Unfortunately, we've seen it all before, including the desert, the truck chases, the chemical warfare, the swooping helicopters, etc., ad nauseam. We've also seen the muscles: Only the heads change in the steady stream of spectorals flooding America's theaters.

"Red Scorpion" is basically a comic book or a Saturday morning cartoon masquerading as a feature film. Lundgren, so nasty as the Russian boxer in "Rocky IV," is slightly more sympathetic this go-round, though watching him think hard is a painful experience. The tiresome M. Emmet Walsh plays an ugly American journalist of the left-wing persuasion, while Al White portrays Kallunda, the rebels' noble second-in-command. Together, these three make up an unlikely A Team . . . make that a B Team.

In the end, just about everything blows up or over, and so will "Red Scorpion." In the meantime, beware of its stink.

"Red Scorpion" is rated R and contains violence, a touch of profanity and a few tons of TNT.

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