My notes on Maximum Impact, opening in US cinemas September 28 then going to digital on October 2.
At a guess, Russian producer-stuntman-actor Alexander Nevsky (a doppelganger for obscure movie/TV hulk Brian Thompson) grew up watching bootlegs of direct-to-video US action fare from the ’80s and ’90s and always saw himself as becoming the next Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Dudikoff or Jeff Wincott, or at least Olivier Gruner. He’s made a string of semi-vanity vehicles – here’s my review of his straight-ahead cop picture Black Rose – and at least has the connections to secure cool Moscow locations for decently-staged car chases and sign up quality supporting casts from the Blockbuster era. He even looks okay in fight scenes, though this particular film falls down thanks to the fact that he can’t stretch to comedy self-parody the way Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson can. Behind the generic title, this can’t decide whether its a wry pastiche of a bygone style of filmmaking or a whacky comedy which happens not to be all that amusing.
With Russian-American relations at an all-time low, the US Secretary of State (Eric Roberts) heads to Moscow for a high-level summit to sort things out, which means that his secret service detail, headed by tough chick Kate (Kelly Hu), has to work closely with the Russian FSB, represented by Maxim Kadurin (Nevsky). In a joke that Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson could get away with, the imposing-seeming Kadurin is really a desk jockey who has to go into the field because the pint-sized, martial arts-skilled departmental wildman Durov (Evgeniy Stychkin) has been hit on the head and is out of commission. It’s a decent enough premise, but nothing ever comes of it – just as Kadurin and Kate bicker and improvise and learn grudging respect but never strike sparks. The politico’s teenage daughter (Polina Butorina) stows away on the mission to hook up with a member of a Moscow boy band, and a shady US businessman who seems to be called Donald Grump (William Baldwin) hires a washed-up martial arts TV star (Mark Dacascos) to wreck the talks so he can make big profit. The girl seems to get kidnapped, and Kate has to dye her hair blonde as part of a scheme to get her back. Also around are Alphonso Macauley and Tom Arnold as asshole comedy agents – Arnold has a running joke about needing to go to the toilet, which is exactly as not funny as it sounds. And there’s room for Bai Ling, Matthias Hues (who was in Black Rose) and Danny Trejo to fill out the all-star cast.
It was scripted by Ross LaManna, who wrote the original Rush Hour and has thus been credited on all the sequels and spin-offs, and directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, whose credits have been on a slide from Steven Seagal (Exit Wounds) to terrible game spin-offs (Doom, Streetfighter The Legend of Chun Li). The whole thing has a careless, thrown-together feel – at one point, the hero saves the Secretary by swerving a helicopter to avoid being struck by a missile but there’s no mention of the thing falling on Moscow and blowing up a building afterwards, and the topical references all seem to belong to a pre-President Trump era. It’s almost refreshing to see a film where Russian secret services are happy-go-lucky good guys, though don’t expect this to get much play in the environs of Salisbury in the near future. Quite apart from its scrappiness, tendency to indulge the guest stars (Dacascos really goes for it) and lumpen comedy, the thing goes on for an hour and fifty minutes.
Megaton/? Do you not mean Olivier Gruner? Megaton’s an action director.