Raw Justice (1994)

Raw Justice

Raw Justice is a simple, direct-to-video flick that is a product of its time, featuring an exceptional cast of B-Movie greats, constant action and a peppering of nudity. 

Directed by the late David A. Prior this movie is also known as Good Cop Bad Cop, a title that perplexes me as there is only one character this might reflect and he isn’t a focal character. On release this was propelled by Pamela Anderson’s presence as she was a key element of popularity on the hit show Baywatch at the time. Adding the nudity put it on most teenage boy’s lists of must-see movies, regardless of the star roster.

Charles Napier plays the mayor, who’s daughter is murdered and Robert Hays is framed for the murder following a lousy date. Napier hires an ex-cop played by David Keith to follow Hays after he is released on bail. Stacy Keach plays the mayor’s slimy deputy, dispatching Ted Prior to take Hays out. Leo Rossi plays a corrupt cop who spends most of the movie harassing Keith. Anderson plays a sex worker who is unwittingly caught up in the proceedings. This is a perfect example of a plot that is entirely designed to link action sequences together as Keith, Hays and Anderson evade ongoing attempts to eliminate them. 

The quibbling between Keith and Hays is possibly the most enjoyable aspect of the film and whilst Hays’ character is far from developed they are a very likeable duo. Keith fleshes out his character, looking like he is really enjoying playing the tough bounty hunter. Keith even provides a little extra music (according to the credits,) possibly his character’s signature guitar riff when he does something cool/heroic/humourous.

Anderson is quirky and fun. Despite the marketing, the nudity is not overdone, in fact it’s quite light and tame. There are two sex sequences, filmed quite tastefully and are over fairly quickly. Anderson gets involved in the escapades throughout the film and it’s fun having the two leads quibbling over her. Anderson does her best to deliver some of the clunky dialogue, especially during some of the exchanges mid-action sequence.

What little we know about Hays’ character is that he is a bit of a boring date and can do a little martial arts. Hays is a curious choice for the role, not that I have an issue with his casting. His relaxed nature brings a better balance to the buddy aspect of the film. For those who are expecting to see Robert Hays: Action Hero, Keith gets the lion’s share of the action and Hays is along for the ride. All too often Hays and Anderson run for shelter with Keith dispatching the baddies with his shiny magnum.

Speaking of action, I was surprised by the scale of action here. This is a film that will use any excuse for a chase or brawl. It is funny, the action sequences are filmed with panache and flare, whilst everything else is quite bland but functional. Director Prior has a helicopter filming some of the action from above giving the chases a much more epic feel. Motorcycle chases zip through shopping malls reminiscent of The Blues Brothers. Airboat chases bound across the everglades at speed. Car chases result in explosions and bar fights are simply fun.

In its present form on DVD Raw Justice is pretty ugly round the edges. It could really use an HD remaster, and I would love Keith, Hays and Anderson to reunite for a commentary. There is a decent Rhythm and Blues score that helps boost the film; however, it does not seem to have been released on any medium.

This is essentially a direct-to-video remix of Midnight Run and it is pretty successful at realising what it wants to be. As an action film, it is brimming with less violent action. Those seeking an erotic thriller with Pamela Anderson will be disappointed, however, as a buddy, action, comedy flick it hits the bullseye, literally.

Video posters and box art push Pamela Anderson generally in outfits that she does not wear in the film, I’m sure this worked, appealing to teenagers hoping for more nudity than there actually is.


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