Movie Review – Red Sonja (Mini Review)

Principal Cast : Brigitte Nielsen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman, Paul L Smith, Ernie Reyes Jr, Ronald Lacey, Pat Roach, Terry Richards, Janet Agren, Hans Meyer, Tutte Lemkow, Tad Horino.
Synopsis: The fearless warrior Red Sonja sets out to avenge her family’s murder and rid her kingdom from the tyrannical rule of evil Queen Gedren.


Desperately dull sword-and-sorcery entry into Arnie’s Barbarian Trilogy – following Conan The Barbarian and Conan The Destroyer Red Sonja is near-unwatchable trash of the highest order, thanks largely to stilted writing, almost captivatingly bad direction, and some of the worst on-screen performances in any mid-budget Hollywood film… maybe ever. Although Arnie is given top billing, and spends most of his time rescuing Brigitte Nielsen’s titular heroine from all manner of peril (seriously, this sets feminism back by decades, the amount of scrapes Sonja needs saving from) this most definitely isn’t his film; newcomer Nielsen was pulled off the supermodel runway and thrown into this diabolically written and fancifully shot faux-period piece that sees Sonja seek retribution from Sandahl Bergman’s lesbian nemesis Queen Gedren, who has stolen a fantasmagorical talisman with which she plans to take over the world. Yawn. The film’s generic premise and the turgid, trope-ridden screenplay by Clive Exton and George MacDonald Fraser do little to engage the audience, unless you like scantily clad women and the kind of swordplay you’d find at one of those Renaissance Fairs in the children’s entertainment section.

Directed by Richard Fleischer, better known for high concept fare such as Fantastic Voyage (1966) or Doctor Dolittle (1967), Red Sonja is dreadfully performed by everyone involved, from poor Brigitte Nielsen so completely out of her depth it’s astounding, to Paul L Smith and Ernie Reyes Jr as inane comedy relief, to the great Ronald Lacey and Sandahl Bergman as the arch villains… heck, even Arnie looks confused by his role in this trash, although he throws his weight around looking as buff and oily as he did in the Conan films. It should be noted he plays a completely different character here, in Lord Kalidor, but the physical proximity to his former starring role is uncanny. Doomed by risible misogyny that no doubt was intended as campy nonsense but plays so rank you’ll cringe as each myopic line is delivered, Red Sonja’s action sequences and remarkable production design – the film looks terrifically expensive! – can’t overcome some awful editing, generic sound design and risible performances, and by about the half way mark you’re really struggling not to check your watch. I’m glad I watched this film, I really am, because it means I’ll never need to spend ninety minutes with Nielsen’s paper-thin characterisation ever again. Avoid this film, it’s a flaming turd.

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