Things may not be going swimmingly between the United States and Russia at the moment, but that doesn’t stop their security forces from teaming up in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s “action/comedy” that doesn’t live up to either description. Maximum Impact offers certain pleasures to those addicted to the sort of B-movies that used to line the shelves at Blockbuster, most notably its cast filled with enough familiar faces to keep a game of Trivial Pursuit going for hours. But playing that would be far preferable to actually sitting through the film which wears out its welcome within minutes.
The main hook of the pic, starring and produced by Alexander Nevsky, whose photo should be in the dictionary accompanying the definition of “wooden,” is that the Secret Service and the Russian FSB wind up collaborating to prevent a terrorist attack in Moscow. Said attack is precipitated by the arrival of the U.S. Secretary of State, played by Eric Roberts. At this point, Roberts has been in so many bad movies of this type that his presence is strangely comforting. Plus, he always seems in on the joke.
Rush out to rent a copy at Blockbuster. Oh, wait…
Speaking of jokes, one of the chief villains, played by Mark Dacascos, is supposed to be a former star of an action television series who has somehow made a career transition to international terrorist. Needless to say, this can be a disadvantage when he’s trying to be incognito, although not too much of one since he’s mistaken for both Jet Li and Lou Diamond Philips. His cohort is played by Matthias Hues, who you’ll find instantly recognizable while having no idea from where. Fun fact: Hues’ mother is the niece of Engelbert Humperdinck (the composer, not the singer). This is a digression, I know, but believe me, it’s more interesting than the plot.
Speaking of jokes again, much of the action hinges around the Secretary of State’s teenage granddaughter (Polina Butorina) sneaking aboard his plane so she can go to Moscow and hook up with a member of a Russian boy band with whom she’s been communicating online. This utterly defies credibility. I mean, are there really Russian boy bands?
One of the film’s running gags, and you’ll know that’s a pun in a few seconds, is Tom Arnold’s character having a prostate problem that makes him run to the bathroom to pee every few minutes. The bit doesn’t produce a single laugh, but on the positive side, you do get to see Arnold being beaten up by Kelly Hu.
William Baldwin appears periodically as a shady businessman employing the terrorists for his own evil ends. The actor only appears in scenes in which his character communicates with the others via video, often screaming directly into the camera. It gives you a good idea of what Baldwin family gatherings must be like these days.
Among the other screen veterans showing up briefly are Bai Ling, whose presence is always welcome, and Danny Trejo, playing a drug kingpin. Trejo is shown performing cunnilingus, which is something he never got to do as Machete. He also bellows the phrase, “Say hello to my little friend!,” which is something no actor should do ever again.
And then there’s Nevsky, the cinematic equivalent of a black hole who sucks all the energy out of the screen. I would say that he’s probably the stiffest actor Bartkowiak has ever worked with, except the director’s credits include Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal.
The film includes many Moscow locations, so at least the actors got a free trip out of the deal. Filmgoers, on the other hand, get the short end of the stick, as the action sequences are decidedly underwhelming.
Ironically, the most original aspect of Maximum Impact is its title. Somehow, it has never been used for an action movie before, despite sounding like every one ever made. And after this, it may never be used again.
Production companies: Cinetel Films, Hollywood Storm, NextGen, Czar Pictures
Distributor: Unified Pictures
Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold, Danny Trejo, Alphonso McAuley, Mark Dacascos, William Baldwin, Eric Roberts
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Screenwriter: Ross LaManna
Producers: Alexander Nevsky, Alexander Izotov
Director of photography: Vern Nobles
Editor: Thomas Calderon
Composer: Sean Murray
Costume designer: Elena Medvenko
Casting: Craig Campobasso