Raw Deal AKA Triple Identity (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Studio Canal
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (24th October 2022).
The Film

Raw Deal (John Irvin, 1986)

After his federal agent son is killed in a mob hit on a federal witness, FBI chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) enlists the help of former colleague Mark Kaminski (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in dismantling the mafia crew led by Petrovita (Sam Wanamaker). Shannon presents the job to Kaminski as an opportunity to be re-enlisted in the FBI: Kaminski was expelled from the agency after physically assaulting a suspect, and after being “leant on” by prosecutor Marvin Baxter (Joe Regalbuto). Kaminski is now working for the sheriff’s department in a small town, something that displeases his big city-loving wife, Amy (Blanche Baker), so much that she lives her life in an alcoholic haze, directing drunken vitriol towards her husband.

Posing as Miami-based mobster Joseph “Joey” Brennan, Kaminski makes contact with Paulo Rocca (Paul Shenar), the underboss of Petrovita’s crew. Rocca’s enforcer, Max Keller (Robert Davi), takes an instant disliking towards Kaminski; Keller puts pressure on a female acquaintance, Monique (Kathryn Harrold), to get close to Kaminski. Meanwhile, local police detective Baker (Ed Lauter) begins to suspect that Kaminski (as Brennan) is involved with the mob.

Monique is the moll of Martin Lamanski (Steven Hill), the boss of a rival family who is trying to steal some of Petrovita’s “action.” To prove his allegiance to Petrovita, Kaminski rides along with Max on a hit on Lamanski. Suspecting Kaminski to be a mole, Max suggests to Petrovita that they test Kaminski by taking him to “whack” a high-ranking FBI agent. This agent is, naturally, Harry Shannon. Harry is badly wounded but survives only because Kaminski turns against Max.

His anger fired up by the hit on his friend Harry, and his cover in Petrovita’s crew on the verge of being blown, Kaminski must do everything within his power to dismantle Petrovita’s organisation.

For those of us who remember it, the era in which Hollywood action films were dominated by the “Big Three”—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis (with a number of slightly lesser action stars, such as Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, trailing closely behind)—lingers vividly in the memory. It’s difficult to believe that many of these pictures are now approaching 40 years old. To revisit them is to be reminded of an era in which Hollywood action films featured fairly lean running times, relatively grounded plots, and unashamed displays of… well… action. (The recent success of, and ensuant controversy surrounding, Top Gun: Maverick—35 years after the release of the original Top Gun—has to some extent revitalised interest in, and discourse around, the 1980s model of Hollywood action filmmaking.)

Raw Deal occupies a curious position within the filmography of its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was obviously designed as a vehicle for Arnie, coming in the wake of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982) and James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984)—both of which helped turn Schwarzenegger from a body builder into one of the most famous, and bankable, Hollywood stars of the decade—but before Schwarzenegger’s persona as an action star was consolidated in John McTiernan’s Predator and Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man (both 1987). Between these two poles in Schwarzenegger’s body of work, Raw Deal feels “not quite” an early Arnie film, whilst also being “not quite” a peak Arnie movie. More specifically, Raw Deal seems designed to capitalise on some of the traits of the film Arnold had made immediately prior, Mark Lester’s Commando (1985)—to the extent that Irvin’s movie includes a near-identical “tooling up” montage before its climactic battle. Where Commando’s montage takes place on the beach of an island hideout, though, Raw Deal’s sees Arnie equipping an arsenal of weapons before riding into a mob hideout in a gravel pit.

Commando was mocked at the time but was successful at the box office. The Schwarzenegger-starring films that surrounded it—Raw Deal and Richard Fleischer’s Red Sonja (1985)—were directly positioned as “failures,” both critically and commercially. Red Sonja failed to recoup its production costs, whereas Raw Deal made a small profit which, measured against its planned/hoped for success, was considered a huge disappointment by the film’s producers and backers. Raw Deal’s lack of financial success (one of a string of “flops” for the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group/DEG) contributed to Dino De Laurentiis declaring bankruptcy. When DEG collapsed, Schwarzenegger convinced Carolco Pictures to buy the rights to a project that De Laurentiis had nurtured for several years: eventually, several years later, this became one of Schwarzenegger’s biggest hits as an actor. That film was, of course, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall (1990).

Perhaps because it was framed by several more spectacular Schwarzenegger-starring films, Raw Deal is relatively little-discussed or remembered other than amongst hardcore fans of 1980s action movies—besides, perhaps, its memorable showdown in the mob gravel pit-cum-hideout, in which Arnie uses a submachine gun to take out wave upon wave of mobsters, whilst driving in a convertible and blaring the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on the cassette player. In fact, to slip into anecdotes, for many years that scene was what my own recollections of this film began with, in conversations with friends or my sadly-missed action movie-loving dad.

Raw Deal is often regarded as little more than a “cash grab” intended to capitalise on Arnie’s then-ascending Hollywood star. This is certainly the position that Arnold: Schwarzenegger and the Movies author Dave Saunders, interviewed on this disc, takes towards Raw Deal—arguing that it is simply a “generic” mob movie with bolted on “Arnie” elements. That said, the film features some jarring shifts in tone—from “serious” mob drama to outré action movie—that suggest a script remodelled to incorporate Schwarzenegger’s screen persona.

In fact, the writing of Raw Deal is a story that’s nary been told, and represents a fascinating mish-mash of international writing talent. The film’s story is credited to two well-established Italian writers, Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati—both of whom were known for their collaborations with Sergio Leone on the “Dollars” films, and who between them had written numerous Italian Westerns, poliziesco pictures, thrillers, and comedies. (Donati would go on to write, as his next English-language film, Elie Chouraqui’s Man on Fire in 1987; this was remade by Tony Scott about 20 years later.) In many ways, the film feels like a “Hollywood-ized” Italian poliziesco picture—as long as one bears in mind the fact that the Italian poliziesco films of the 1970s were so heavily based on Hollywood models such as Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971) and William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971).

However, the actual screenplay for Raw Deal is credited to two American writers, Gary DeVore and Norman Wexler. Both of these writers led colourful lives. A former vice president of DEG, DeVore had previously scripted another film for John Irvin, the Frederick Forsyth adaptation The Dogs of War in 1980, and would go on to write several action movies. DeVore disappeared in 1997; in 1998, his body was found in his car, submerged beneath a bridge in California, at a site that had previously been investigated. No explanation could be offered as to how DeVore’s vehicle had got there. Bizarrely, DeVore’s hands, gun, and laptop (containing a script DeVore was working on) were missing from his vehicle. (Actually, a pair of skeletonised hands were discovered in the vehicle, but these were later discovered to be approximately 200 years old.) Rumours have persisted that the script DeVore was writing focused on the US invasion of Panama, and his death was the result of a CIA “cover up” intended to obscure General Noriega’s alleged blackmailing (via secretly-recorded sex tapes) of various US officials. Norman Wexler had an equally interesting career, having been arrested in 1972 for threatening to kill Richard Nixon whilst in the grip of a manic episode, and having written Serpico (1973) for Sidney Lumet and Saturday Night Fever (1977) for John Badham. Wexler’s notoriously eccentric, and sometimes aggressive, behaviour inspired comic Andy Kaufman in the creation of the abrasive “lounge lizard” character Tony Clifton.

It seems reasonable to surmise that whatever Donati and Vincenzoni provided to De Laurentiis was repurposed/remodelled by DeVore and Wexler in order to incorporate aspects of “Arnie’s” burgeoning screen persona—including such touches as the aforementioned “tooling up” montage, and the various one-liners that are dotted throughout the film.

In the interview on this disc, Dave Saunders reminds us that Schwarzenegger’s screen presence was always remarkably “sexless,” in comparison with other stars of the era (and since). Here, Arnie’s character, Kaminski, is curiously respectful towards women: faithful to his wife, he gently rebukes the advances of mob moll Monique, saying that he considers her a friend. (“If I wanted to make friends, I’d go to summer camp,” the randy-angry Monique grumbles in response.) Where Kaminski’s quick recourse to violence could be criticised today as a display of “toxic” masculinity, what’s striking is that Raw Deal features—with little attention directed towards it—some deeply toxic female behaviour too, on the part of Kaminski’s wife Amy.

When we first meet Amy, she is participating in a bout of daytime drinking. Clearly plastered, she is icing a cake that she has baked. (She writes the word ‘Shit’ on it.) There are not-so-subtle indications that Amy relies on alcohol as a crutch for her displeasure at having had to move from New York City to a small-town setting. Flying into a rage, she throws the cake at Kaminski; the cake hits a cabinet behind him. Kaminski’s response is a brief one-liner, one of the film’s most memorable: “You shouldn’t drink and bake,” he tells his wife. Despite the moment of levity provided by this quip, Amy’s aggressive behaviour and her abuse of alcohol hang over the scene, which is the only moment in the film in which we see Amy onscreen. (She is mentioned in the dialogue throughout the film, but has no other screentime aside from her appearance in this scene.) Later, when Harry tells Kaminski that Petrovita may have cottoned on to Kaminski’s true identity, Kaminski insists that he carry on with the undercover work: “If we stop now, the whole thing is for nothing. Knowing Amy, she’ll probably kill me herself,” he says. This is of course a throwaway line, but the propensity for drunken rage that Amy displays in her first scene imbues it with a quiet menace.

At the risk of making too much of these two disparate incidents within the film’s narrative, one can’t help but realise that the only glimpses of Amy that are provided to the film’s audience show her behaviour to be on the abusive spectrum; this undercuts Kaminski’s revelation in the final scenes that Amy is pregnant. What kind of mother would Amy make, the audience might wonder; and has she left her drink problems behind now that Kaminski has been reinstated in the bureau (and the couple have presumably moved back to the city)? The fact that Amy isn’t seen onscreen, outside of her brief appearance at the start of the film, leaves the status of her relationship with Kaminski unresolved: a lack of closure hangs over this specific narrative thread.

It is threads such as this that are left unresolved within the finished film. Elsewhere, we have some genuinely touching moments involving Kaminski’s friend Harry, whose son is killed by Petrovita’s hoods in the opening sequence—setting in motion Harry’s plan for revenge against Petrovita’s mob. When Harry outlines his plan to take down Petrovita’s crew, enlisting Kaminski’s help in going undercover within the mob, the scene ends with a long-take close-up of Darren McGavin’s face: Harry weeps quietly, subtly, and has clearly been “broken” by his son’s death. Irvin slowly, delicately fades to black on this image.

The film’s final sequence, again involving Harry, is equally touching. Having been injured in the “hit” orchestrated by Max, at the side of Harry’s son’s grave no less, Harry is shown in the film’s final moments as he receives physiotherapy designed to enable him to walk again. (He is wearing double leg braces.) Harry and Kaminski converse about the case, Kaminski’s reinstatement in the FBI, and Amy’s pregnancy: Kaminski asks Harry to be the baby’s godfather. Kaminski goads Harry into walking again; Harry is reluctant. “I have no interest in becoming an accomplished cripple,” he says, angrily. However, Harry eventually takes several paces and falls against Kaminski. The two friends embrace, and the film ends on a freeze frame of this image. It’s a beautifully-acted scene (particularly by McGavin) but somewhat out of place in an action movie: it’s deeply touching (“You don’t have to walk, but you have to try like hell,” Kaminski tells Harry) but jars with the scenes that precede it, which show Kaminski coolly and efficiently taking apart Petrovita’s crew—with the use of some judicious violence—both at the gravel pit where they store their drugs and at the nightclub that Petrovita owns.

Raw Deal, then, is a film of many parts that don’t completely coalesce, suggesting a script that was revised and reworked in order to work into it certain specific elements: several all-out action setpieces (a car chase, the gravel pit shootout, the final showdown in Petrovita’s nightclub); one-liners delivered by Arnie; and so on. Moments of high drama (Harry’s loss of his son; Harry’s recuperation from the injuries he sustained in Max’s attempt on his life) are offset by sometimes quite ludicrous action. (In the aforementioned scene that features the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Kaminski assaults the mob’s gravel pit hideout with the precision of a highly-trained special forces operative, not an undercover FBI agent.) Narrative threads are left hanging, and characters—notably Amy, but also others—disappear for long stretches of the plot. It’s certainly an entertaining film, and delivers some solid action in its final sequences, but one can’t help but feel that Raw Deal seems like an 80s action film with delusions of being something more lofty—rather like John Flynn’s later Steven Seagal actioner Out for Justice (1991), with its references to Arthur Miller and so on.


Studiocanal’s new release of Raw Deal is based on a new (as of 2022) 4k restoration produced by Studiocanal themselves. Various 35mm elements were scanned at 4k and cleaned-up, with frame-by-frame removal of aspects of damage and debris (dust, scratches, etc). The film is being released simultaneously on 4k UHD and on regular Blu-ray. It is the latter disc that was provided to us for review.

Raw Deal
was photographed on 35mm colour stock, using anamorphic lenses. On the Blu-ray disc, the film is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The presentation retains the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Uncut and with a running time of 105:46 mins, this is an excellent presentation of the film. Fine detail glows, particularly in close-ups. A superficial comparison with the film’s previous Blu-ray release (from Optimum in the UK) will show that the level of detail in Studiocanal’s new 4k restoration is much improved. In comparison with that older Blu, the new 4k restoration features a very slightly warmer palette, with more naturalistic skintones; a more filmlike texture (the older Blu-ray features some harmful digital noise reduction); and slightly different framing, with the new 4k restoration being very slightly tigher in its compositions, and providing a smidgen of extra visual information at the bottom of the frame.

Contrast levels are superb. Blacks are rich and deep, and the curve from the shoulder to the toe of the exposure is evenly-balanced. There are some optical shots (for example, the opening titles) that, precisely because they are opticals, feature a little less detail and flatter contrast: these stand out more in this presentation than on the film’s previous Blu-ray release(s) simply owing to how impressive the rest of the film looks. Colours are saturated in a pleasing way. The reds of the film’s opening titles are strong and distinct, but much of the film has a naturalistic palette (with some sojourns into sequences in Petrovita’ nightclub, which has a monochromatic appearance—all grey walls, white lights, and black furnishings). Skintones are even and naturalistic. The encode to disc presents no glaring problems, ensuring that the presentation retains the structure of 35mm film.

NB. Some full-sized screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review, including comparison with Optimum’s old UK Blu-ray release of Raw Deal.


The film is presented with multiple audio options, accessible from the main menu and “on the fly” via the Blu-ray remote:
- An English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track
- An English LPCM 2.0 stereo track
- A French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track
- A French LPCM 2.0 stereo track
- A German LPCM 2.0 mono track.

Purists will probably want to default to the English LPCM 2.0 track. Both English language tracks are rich and deep, with excellent range demonstrated in the scenes that feature gunfire and explosions, in particular. The LPCM track feels a little more robust than the DTS-HD track—which sounds just a little “thin” in comparison. That said, both English tracks are very pleasing.

Optional subtitles are provided in the following languages: English for the Hard of hearing, French, and German. In the case of the English HoH track, the subtitles are accurate in transcribing the dialogue. They are also easy to read.


The disc includes the following:
- ‘Raw Deal—A Generic Gangster Film’ (8:56). This is an interview with Dave Saunders, the author of the book Arnold: Schwarzenegger and the Movies. Saunders is… less than enthusiastic about Raw Deal. He argues that it is simple a “generic” picture that is adapted to Arnie’s persona. He also makes some interesting observations about Arnie’s career more generally: for example, his assertion (mentioned in the main body of this review) that Schwarzenegger’s screen persona is for the most part remarkably “sexless,” in comparison with other stars of the 1980s. This has been ported over from the film’s previous home video releases.

- ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger—The Man Who Raised Hollywood’(16:18). This featurette looks at Schwarzenegger’s career in Hollywood films, and features interviews with film directors Peter Hyams, Arthur Allan Seidelman, Michel Ferry (the AD on Red Sonja), producer Edward Pressman, and others. This has also appeared on previous home video releases of this film.

- Trailer (1:30).


Raw Deal may, admittedly, be an uneven film: its mixture of “high drama,” action, and Arnie one-liners doesn’t always gel. However, it is an entertaining picture, despite all this. Its positioning within Schwarzenegger’s career—between his early pictures as an action star, and the later films that defined his screen persona and the kinds of projects with which he was associated—often leads it to be overlooked in favour of some of Arnie’s more memorably outrageous films. In many ways, it feels like a film that is struggling to build an identity for its lead actor. The finished film bears the hallmarks of a project that has been reworked in order to capitalise on the qualities of its star: one wonders what processes were involved in translating whatever Vincenzoni and Donati submitted, into the final shooting script credited to DeVore and Wexler. (The various proposed titles that the project went through—from “Let’s Make a Deal” to “Triple Identity”—betray this lack of identity and focus in the finished picture.) That said, in many ways it may be considered an exemplar of the mid-1980s action picture, in its mixture of plot, humour, and action.

Studiocanal’s new 4k restoration of Raw Deal looks stupendously good on the Blu-ray that was provided to us for review. It’s a hugely impressive presentation of the film. The contextual material, however, is so-so: it’s not that this is bad, but simply that we have seen these extra features on previous releases, and it would have been nice to have seen a deeper dive into the film’s production involving contributions from members of the cast and crew—given that there is so little about the making of this film out there. Fans of the film will be more than impressed with the impressively filmlike presentation of the main feature, however, which is a satisfying upgrade over Raw Deal’s previous Blu-ray releases.

Please click the screengrabs below to enlarge them.
New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:

New 4k restoration (taken from the 1080p Blu-ray release by Studiocanal):

Old Optimum Blu-ray release:


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