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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Retro Review: Red Sonja (1985) #Schwarzenegger

Red Sonja
Cast: Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, Paul Smith, Ronald Lacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Genre: Sword and Sorcery Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $6 million

Plot: A vengeful woman sets out to retrieve a magic orb from an evil queen whom she vows vengeance upon, after the evil queen slain her family and her loyal warriors raped her

'Red Sonja Is A Corny '80s Fantasy Flick, Which I Found Terribly Watchable'

Danish actress Brigette Nielsen made her film debut as the titular character, Red Sonja during her short-lived acting career. She followed this up with turns in Cobra and Rocky IV alongside Sly Stallone, Beverly Hills Cop 2 and a couple of direct- to- DVD efforts that include a softcore porn thriller, before disappearing from the movie world.

Red Sonja was lambasted by critics throughout with the general consensus being it is dull, badly acted and directed and is an uninspiring spin-off to the Conan movies. Sitting through this film, I was literally preparing myself for the worst - yet somehow, somewhere, oddly, bizarrely, I enjoyed some, and I say some parts of Red Sonja.

After being raped by Queen Gedren, who murdered Sonja's brother and mother, Red Sonja (who is named, due to her hair being red) is visited by a spirit who helps her muster up the strength and courage to seek vengeance on her part. Along the way, she meets and joins forces with a boy named Prince Tahn and his loyal servant, Falkon and later on, Kalidor and the foursome go out of their way to destroy a green orb and get rid of Queen Gedren.

Made in the 1980s, it has that cheesy, corny vibe going throughout. Ernie Reyes Jr's character, Prince Tahn is an irritating little dweeb, who as the audience, we are having to put up with him and his self-righteous, snotty-nosed and pompous manner. I didn't care much for Reyes Jr in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze - and I didn't care for him in this offering. He talks too much and is very grating with his know-it-all showing, as the little prince. For a prince, he sure is so ungracious and ungrateful. The scene where Sonja was going to spank his butt as punishment and for being annoying - only to be stopped by Tahn's right-hand man, Falcon was disappointing, whilst Arnie's character, Calidor doesn't utter a single word during his entrance, right after hacking down the bad guys with a sword. He also hams it up: if Conan was a more corny and hammy type of character, Calidor would be it. He also has a much gentler side to him. With lead Brigette Nielsen in a skimpy outfit and her mullet looking, rather, well, odd, unfortunately, she gives a very wooden and one-dimensional performance that is stoic and she rarely expresses many layers or emotions in this Sonja character. The villainess, meanwhile, is just incredibly bland and terrible, not to mention weak.

Red Sonja is a Conan B- movie - and has long been touted as its third film and a spin-off in actuality. The story is set around at the same time as Conan in the Hyborian era. Although I'm not a keen fan of those movies, either myself. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers this film to be the worst he has been involved in; in watching it throughout, I'm somewhat in agreement with him, but at the same time, I found it entertaining in parts. The dialogue is, however, embarrassing and dumb to hear (Sonja: ''I don't need eyes to find you, I can smell you from 100 paces'', what on earth is this nonsense??!), and almost bordering on farcical.

It is painfully obvious this film was made to capitalise on Arnold's Conan movies, particularly Conan The Destroyer which was a PG-13 rated affair and disregarding the cheesy overtone it evokes, the talents of the actors involved, whilst they were not overly strong, were not fully utilised and that their characters are not as fully developed as they ought to have been.

The best moments had Arnie in them, of him riding and battling a mechanical, or animatronic sea creature in the water, as silly as that scene looked. Interestingly also, unlike his character Conan, Calidor has a bit more of a presence, as well as subtlety, and that's partly thanks to Arnie's acting performance, which is a cut above from his previous role. Even if it still wooden (all of the performances are one-dimensional and flat). This film has unintentionally funny scenes that make me laugh, so bad yet still watchable and that is one of them. The sword duel with Bridgette and Arnie was entertaining stuff that ended in a draw. The swordplay was very good and they had to be for a movie such as this.

There is so much wrong here.... yet still, I stuck it out and with that, there were some watchable moments.

Final Verdict:

I was literally fearing the worst after all the negative things I've read about Red Sonja - but in all honesty, it isn't that entirely bad. I was not looking forward to seeing this again, initially; yet in fact, it's passable. Besides some of the cheesy acting and irritating child character, of whom I could have done without, Arnold's presence, as well as the fight sequences lend themselves well.

As formulaic as it is, it is, therefore Arnie's addition in Red Sonja, that makes it watchable and a tad more accessible than the Conan films. This is one of those films where one needs to take it with a pinch of salt and to just go along for the ride. Sure it isn't fantastic (and fantastic it is not).

A ''so-bad-it's- good' kind of way corny fantasy flick, Red Sonja should be enjoyed and casually approached as nothing more as a less than serious effort. It saddles in-between awful and fun and it also needed a bit more of Arnie (even if he outright hates Red Sonja) - but for flat acting, terrible script, corny feel, it has some decent fighting scenes and is a terribly watchable movie. This is pretty much everything one would want and expect from a '80s fantasy epic.

Well, a bad one that is.


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