If watching Tiffany Haddish put Kevin Hart through the educational wringer in “Night School” isn’t enticing you to go to the movies this weekend, perhaps a Russian action comedy in which Russian spies team up with the CIA might be your thing.
Director Andrezj Bartkowiak — an action maven who has worked on films like “Speed” and directed Jet Li in multiple films — is offering up “Maximum Impact,” a film that sees Russian FSB agents (of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) team up with the CIA in order to stop their respective countries from declaring nuclear war after the grandaughter of the secretary of state — played by Eric Roberts — is kidnapped. The film is a co-production between Russian studio Czar Pictures and Hollywood Storm, a L.A.-based outlet created by the movie’s leading star, Moscow-born Alexander Nevsky.
So what’s the comedy part? Well, there’s a Secret Service agent played by Tom Arnold — whose character has a bladder problem — and a drug lord played by famed Hollywood bad guy actor Danny Trejo. There are also some unintentional laughs about the film’s poster, which movie buffs on Reddit have noted bears a striking resemblance to the 2017 Michael Keaton black ops action film “American Assassin.” Billy Baldwin also appears in the film as a shadowy American.
But April Wolfe, in her review for TheWrap, calls it a propaganda film. And a bad one at that.
“It’s not not a worthy cause to portray Russian citizens in a more flattering light; god knows American propagandistic films painted Soviets as the big bad for decades, and that’s not an easy image recovery,” she wrote. “But hoo-boy, this movie has some pretty blatant intentions of specifically making the FSB (née KGB) look nice and not shady at all. Whatever, that’s fine. American cinema isn’t short on pro-CIA narratives. But aside from the political implications, you’ll find this film is also quite hateful of women, too.”
The film was released in Russia last November, but barely made a dent at the box office with Box Office Mojo reporting a gross of just under $32,000. Now it’s coming out in limited release via CineTel this weekend in advance of a digital/VOD release on Tuesday, less than six weeks before a U.S. midterm election that has newspapers reporting on whether Russia will try to interfere.
Watch the trailer here: