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"This must be what they mean by...poetic justice."
Mark Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) is working a dead-end job as a small-town sheriff after being forced to resign from the FBI. He and his wife Amy would give anything to get out and return to the big city. An opportunity presents itself when FBI Chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin) calls Mark in on a secret assignment of revenge. Henchmen of a Chicago mob boss named Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) have murdered Shannon's son, an FBI agent protecting an informant with information on Patrovita. Knowing that someone in law enforcement is selling information to Patrovita, Shannon wants Mark to infiltrate and destroy the Patrovita organisation from within; in return Shannon will get Mark reinstated in the FBI.
Mark accepts the offer and takes on the identity of an out-of-town criminal, quickly getting Patrovita's attention by causing trouble for his enemy, Jewish mob boss Martin Lamanski. Unfortunately this also earns Mark the enmity of Patrovita enforcer Max Keller, who starts to dig into the background of his new rival...
- Aesop: Mark hands us one after Amy throws a cake at him.
"You should not drink and bake."
- Air Vent Passageway: After the mobsters use up all their ammo shooting up the elevator, Mark enters by sliding down the ventilation shaft.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When a fake motorcycle cop claims to be on his way to a costume party, Mark charges him with Impersonating an Officer, resisting arrest, fraud, reckless driving, and lying to the sheriff.
- Avengers Assemble: The mob pulls their own version at the beginning of the movie, as the assassins assemble via train, boat and car for the attack on the FBI safehouse.
- Bar Brawl: Mark tears up a gambling joint. He then finishes the job by ramraiding it with a tow truck.
- Car Fu: The mooks at the gravel pit try to crush Arnie's car between two huge earthmoving vehicles.
- Car Chase: Mark chasing the motorcycle cop, and the hit on Martin Lamanski.
- Celibate Hero: Mark stays loyal to his wife, handling Monique simply by pretending to pass out drunk, much to her disappointment (she had his shirt off by then, so had a good view of those muscles). When she falls for Mark he has to confess he's Happily Married -- Monique is not pleased.
- Cool Guns: Mark's H&K 94 (an MP5 submachine gun with extended barrel).
- Cowboy Cop: Mark was thrown out of the Bureau after he brutally beat a suspect who molested, murdered, and mutilated a young girl. Given Schwarzenegger's penchant for playing the Papa Wolf, this isn't too surprising.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: Averted. Mark headshoots the driver of a dump truck moments before its about to crush the prefab cabin he's in.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mark.
Patrovita: Smart I like. Smart-assed I don't!
- Dirty Coward: Marvin Baxter cowers in fear as bullets fly and mooks die during the Storming the Castle scene.
- The Dragon: In theory Patrovita's chief enforcer Paulo Rocca, but Max Keller is the one Mark butts heads with the most.
- Eighties Hair
- Faking the Dead
- Food Slap: Monique finds out Mark isn't making the moves on her because he's Happily Married. She takes off the dress he bought her and throws it at him, then storms out of the restaurant in her fur coat and lingerie, running into Max Keller (who'd set her up with Mark as a Honey Trap) on the way. She then grabs a drink off the nearest table and tosses it in Keller's face.
- Honey Trap: Monique has her gambling debts cancelled by Max Keller in exchange for gathering information on Mark. Mark is wise to her though, and she eventually falls for him.
- Hollywood Silencer: On the silenced M-14 rifle during the safehouse assault.
- Impersonating an Officer: The Dramatic Chase Opening has the deliberately-confusing sight of Mark in plainclothes chasing a motorcycle cop who turns out to be a con man shaking down speeders. Later on Patrovita's men disguise themselves as a bomb squad to steal a huge stash of confiscated drugs and cash from police headquarters.
- Improbable Aiming Skills / Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: In the gravel pit scene Mark kills half a dozen mooks firing at him with automatic weapons, using a H&K carbine fired one-handed out of the car he's driving.
- In the Back: Mark shotguns Luigi Patrovita as he's fleeing after using up all his bullets and mooks.
- Leave Behind a Pistol: When it transpires that Special Federal Prosecutor Marvin Baxter, who had Mark kicked out (telling him to "resign or be prosecuted") is in fact in the employ of Patrovita, the following exchange occurs:
Mark: This must be what they mean by 'poetic justice'. Because of you, a lot of people are dead. And now it's your turn.
- In the movie/blueray version, Baxter takes the pistol and tries to shoot Mark. He gets shot on-camera instead.
- Lock and Load Montage: Though rather than strapping on his weapons, Mark places them in a nylon gunbag.
- Mad Bomber: The plan Mark comes up with to make the police evacuate the building where $100 million dollars worth of mob drugs and cash is being held. They set off a small bomb in a police station, so the police will take a threat seriously and evacuate the building. Then the mob goes in dressed as the bomb squad.
- The Mafia
- Missing Floor: Patrovita's illegal gambling den.
- The Mole: Mark for the good guys, and Marvin Baxter for the villains.
- Neutral Female: Averted with Monique, who helps out when Mark is attacked by Lamanski's hoods, and later turns up with a convenient car when he needs to make a quick getaway.
- Out of the Inferno: In order to fake his death, Mark drives his squad car into an oil refinery, opens a few valves then blows it up with a Flare Pistol. Cue shot of Mark riding out of the flames on a motorcycle.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Mark once he starts infiltrating the mob.
- Show Some Leg: A mobster is sitting in his car, gaping at the sight of a female jogger Gainaxing towards him. She leans down with a big smile, sticks a gun in his face and suggests he go tell the drug house he's guarding that he needs to take a leak. With the sentry taken care of, a squad of detectives pull a crash-bang-gotcha on the occupants.
- Sorry I Left the BGM On: Mark sticks in a tape of "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones before driving into a shootout at the gravel pit. The music comes to an abrupt halt when he drives into a very large dump truck.
- Sleeping Dummy: Mark does the 'fake snoring' version while Monique is talking to Max Keller on the phone about the (fake) ID she's found in his wallet.
- Storming the Castle: Schwarzenegger does his usual One-Man Army approach when Patrovita and his mooks hole up in their basement gambling den.
- Vigilante Man: What Mark is at the end. He certainly doesn't try to arrest anyone!