Friday, September 28, 2018

Maximum Impact: The FSB and the Secret Service, Working Together

You would think the U.S. Secret Service would more likely deal with the Russian Federal Protective Service (FSO) than the FSB, the cosmetically revamped successor to the KGB, if it were tasked with protecting a top secret summit in Moscow. However, the FSB needs more good press, so Russian D-minus-list action star Alexander Nevsky duly plays a FSB agent in his latest outing. This time, he gets to partner up with Kelly Hu, but she can’t redeem Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Maximum Impact (trailer here), which opens today in select theaters.

Maxim Kadurin is built like a tank, but he is actually a FSB computer jockey supporting the deceptively small of stature Andrei Durov, a.k.a. “The Hammer from Hell.” However, a concussion forces the agents to swap roles right before the arrival of the American Secretary of State for a double-secret gab session with his counterpart. However, Sec. Jacobs’ granddaughter Brittany manages to stowaway on the State Department plane, so she can rendezvous with her internet flirtation, a Russian boy band idol.

When Kadurin foils an assassination attempt, the shticky pack of fedora wearing villains fall back on an improvised plan B: kidnapping the granddaughter. Since the two airheaded kids are weirdly competent at avoiding detection, it leads to much certainty regarding her status and safety. Fearing the worst, Kadurin and Secret Service Agent Kate Desmond to find and secure the wayward granddaughter before their bosses know she is missing.

Nevsky might be well-connected in Russia (he also represents the country in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), but his films just are not catching on anywhere else. To be fair, Showdown in Manila is not terrible, but Black Rose was just a lifeless mess. He is not totally unlikable on-screen, but comedy is clearly a challenge for him. That is a real problem, because the jokes and gags are much higher in Impact’s mix than it was for his prior films.

Kelly Hu gets to do a lot of kick-boxing to the extent of almost eclipsing Nevsky as the film’s primary action lead. On the other hand, she has to suffer the indignity of a bleach blond bowl-cut disguise. However, that is nothing compared to humiliating shtick forced on Mark Dacascos, playing Tony Lin, a former Z-list TV star now fronting the gang of mercenaries. However, there is plenty of additional embarrassment to go around, including Tom Arnold playing a senior Secret Service agent obsessed with his prostate and Bai Ling as Scanlon, the over-sexed Under-Secretary for Security. Only Eric Roberts seems to glide through unfazed as Sec. Jacobs.

Take it from someone who appreciates a scrappy B-movie: this is just a bad film. It is more like an employment project for Nevsky’s contacts than something anyone should actually watch. As a cinematographer, Bartkowiak shot classics like The Verdict and Prizzi’s Honor, but his work as a director has been less auspicious. Yet, in this case, most of the creative decisions were most likely out of his control. Not recommended, Maximum Impact opens somewhere today (9/28) and hits VOD next Tuesday (10/2).