WORLD

STING OF THE RED SCORPION

Before he was a powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff made a movie that pretty much screams cult classic

JAIME J. WEINMAN January 23 2006
WORLD

STING OF THE RED SCORPION

Before he was a powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff made a movie that pretty much screams cult classic

JAIME J. WEINMAN January 23 2006

STING OF THE RED SCORPION

Before he was a powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff made a movie that pretty much screams cult classic

WORLD

JAIME J. WEINMAN

Who says there are no Republicans in the movie business? Jack Abramoff is best known these days as the powerful Washington lobbyist whose guilty plea for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials may implicate a number of Republican politicians. But in 1989, before he was hanging out with former House leader Tom DeLay, Abramoff ventured into show business by producing a feature film: Red Scorpion, starring Dolph Lundgren.

Abramoff not only produced Red Scorpion, he co-wrote the story with his brother Robert, so it stands as the purest embodiment of the Jack Abramoff world view. Lundgren, best known for his role as the evil Russian boxer in Rocky IV, plays another sinister Soviet, dispatched to Africa to quell anti-Communist rebels and help the Russians and Cubans take over the world. However, when Lundgren sees the nobility of an anti-Commie guerrilla (Al White, best known as one of the jive dudes from Airplane!), he changes sides and spends the rest of the film shooting, blowing up and otherwise killing anybody who even looks like they might mention Karl Marx.

Red Scorpion was Abramoff’s tribute to anticommunist revolutionaries in Africa; the guerrilla character is based on Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader who was the toast of conservatives until (and in some cases, after) it turned out that his followers had been burning people alive. And like all ’80s action Bmovies that followed in the wake of Rambo, the

film is also about the fun of shooting things. The climactic scene features an evil Cuban trying to retrieve his severed arm after Lundgren has shot it off. This may not have sat well with Abramoff, who, according to the New York Times, “[blamed] the film’s director for its runaway violence and profanity.” No wonder Abramoff went from Hollywood to Washington, where he could have creative control without someone else compromising his vision.

Most of all, Red Scorpion is Abramoff’s celebration of the liberating power of Little Richard. The rebels play his Good Golly Miss Molly over loudspeakers, and a big chase scene is set to Long Tall Sally. The end credits feature Little Richard singing All Around the World with the sound of gunfire and explosions dubbed in at random moments. It sums up everything Abramoff believed in: a return to the good old days of the ’50s, and lots and lots of guns.

Red Scorpion bombed at the box office and (except for one direct-to-video sequel) drove Abramoff out of filmmaking and into the gentler world of politics. However, the movie does have its defenders, who see it as a nostalgic throwback to the tail end of the Cold War. One commentator on the Internet Movie Database wrote: “Red Scorpion does what [it’s] supposed to do, which is make Dolph the saviour of the people in Angola while showing off his body.”

Jack Abramoff himself couldn’t have said it better. M