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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Scorpion' Anything but Stinging

April 24, 1989|KEVIN THOMAS

"Red Scorpion" (citywide) is a numskull live-action comic book designed to show off a stolid Dolph Lundgren as a super-hero.

Writer Arne Olsen and director Joseph Zito would have us believe that Lundgren is a Soviet assassin dispatched to an Angolalike African nation to kill the leader of a rebellion against oppressive Soviet-led Cuban forces. (The leader, played by South African actor Ruben Nthodi, is reportedly based on Jonas Savimbi, a pro-Western leader of an Angolan guerrilla movement and ally of South Africa.) It scarcely requires a crystal ball to predict that Lundgren's Nikolai, "the perfect killing machine," will undergo a change of heart and realize who the true oppressors are.

The film makers aren't actually all that interested in the plight of the citizens of the fictional Mombaka. (They, in fact, weathered much adverse publicity from anti-apartheid groups for filming in Namibia and for obtaining from South Africa the military equipment seen in the picture.) The idea is to put Nikolai through the same kind of severe muscle-flexing test of his strength and courage that Steve Reeves used to endure in his spear-and-sandal epics.

Lundgren is not without humor, and he reveals a surprisingly engaging smile. However, films like "Red Scorpion" (rated R for language and heavy violence) are in the long run likely to hinder rather than further his career.

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