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“Red Scorpion,” a Jack Abramoff production.

“Red Scorpion,” a Jack Abramoff production. (photo)

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The 1989 Dolph Lundgren vehicle “Red Scorpion” is the sort of movie you’d channel surf to at 2am and flip away from instantly. At first glance, it looks like any other mindless action film. You’d never give it a second thought, unless you happened stumble on it as this credit appears on the screen: “A JACK ABRAMOFF PRODUCTION”

Jack Abramoff? The disgraced American lobbyist currently serving a prison sentence for conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion? Could it be? It can be. It is.

After Abramoff served as National Chairman of the College Republican National Committee and before he came one of the most powerful lobbyists in late 1990s and early 2000s Washington D.C., he tried his hand at the movie business. As outlined in an article by “>James Verini for Salon, Abramoff, a child of Beverly Hills, formed a production company with his brother Robert and dreamed up an ’80s action spectacular that would operate as a thinly veiled anti-Communist screed and as propaganda for the sort of African rebels Abramoff had supported with the College Republicans.

05052010_RedScorpion2.jpg“Red Scorpion” makes a brief appearance in Alex Gibney’s exhaustive new documentary on the Abramoff scandal, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” which is opening this week. The film’s talking heads point out the similarities between the film’s fictional nation Mobaka and the real Angola, and between the film’s heroic freedom fighter Kallunda Kintash (Al White) and the public image of Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan warlord who’s one of the stars of the Democratic International, a real-life convention of freedom fighters engineered by Abramoff and his conservative allies as a means of promoting the Reagan Doctrine in Africa. Gibney also observes how Abramoff, a former champion powerlifter, engineered a story beat where Lundgren powerlifts a jeep to save his friend. Don’t let the mumbling, flop-sweated Swede and the bargain basement action sequences fool you: for producer/co-writer Abramoff, this was a deeply personal film.

Divorced from its connection to Abramoff, “Red Scorpion”, directed by Joseph Zito, is little more than a compilation of themes and scenes from other better entries in the genre from “Rambo: First Blood Part II” to “Commando.” The story is essentially “Dances With ‘Red Scorpion.'” Lundgren plays Lt. Rachenko, a loyal Soviet soldier ordered to get close to Kintash in order to learn the location of a rebel stronghold. After he fails in his mission, Rachenko’s cruel superior orders his torture and execution, whereupon Rachenko escapes, takes up with some Bushmen, learns the beauty, serenity, and purity of African tribal culture, then protects that beauty, serenity, and purity by blowing up a large chunk of it, along with plenty of evil, evil (EVIL!) Russians.

05052010_RedScorpion3.jpgEven as propaganda, “Red Scorpion” is a bit confused. Every single Russian and Cuban soldier in the film is portrayed as being pure, uncomplicated, Hitler-doesn’t-look-so-bad-in-comparison evil; every one, that is except Lundgren, whose heroism dilutes the intended message that the only good Soviet is a dead one. Then again, by the end of the film, the only Russian who’s not dead is the only good one, and he only sees the error of his ways after he’s brutally tortured with needles. This movie doesn’t advocate the torture of Communists with needles and the extermination of anyone who doesn’t use needle torture as a gateway to pro-USA feelings, right? Right?

Gibney’s film only has time to share a few clips and doesn’t even touch on Rachenko’s reluctant sidekick, an American journalist played by M. Emmet Walsh. When Rachenko makes a snide remark about Walsh’s salty language, the American launches into a pro-freedom of speech rant. “As a matter of fact, in America, an American can swear whenever, wherever, however much he fucking well pleases!” he boasts. Anyone who’s seen Abramoff’s profanity-laden emails about the “motherfuckers” he bilked for millions in fees knows just how dearly he loved that freedom.

Ironically, it’s Walsh’s journalist who serves as Abramoff’s anti-Communist, pro-liberty mouthpiece. Decades later, journalists were the ones to finally expose Abramoff’s crimes. Anyone who watches “Casino Jack” and learns the full extent of his sordid deals will be able to relate to another of Walsh’s lines: “I now know the meaning of true loathing.”

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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