Born American/Arctic Heat (any which way you like it) is a pretty nice English-language directing debut from Finlands gift to Hollywood, Renny Harlin.
SPOILER WARNING! The story evolves around three American boys hiking in Finnish Lapland. In a jestful mood they find themselves entering the Soviet Union illegally, just to be accused of killing a young village girl, get in a fight, burn down a village, kill a priest and a couple of Russian soldiers. Of course the KGB gets their hands on the boys, who are then locked and buried in a Dante'esquire prison in Siberia, where they will learn the true meaning of suffering.
The film is no ground breaker in any sense, the plot is quite predictable, the acting varies in standard and the overall execution is very low budget. Nevertheless, the film provides some high tension, a sympathetic tale of friendship and a very creepy, dark and suggestive feeling of claustrophobia. The film is shot in Finland, using Finnish actors as Russians, providing very believable characters, who actually (as opposed to many American movies of that era) speak Russian!
The young American guys are unfortunately a setup of B- or even C-actors, even though Mike Norris in the leading role does step up a notch towards the end of the film. David Coburn does exactly what he is supposed to, without a single hint of charisma or artistic integrity and Steve Durham's performance is just sad. American veteran Thalmus Rasulala provides some stiff and wooden acting as the mysterious Admiral, general of the inmates. The truly original performances are provided by the Finnish actors, many of them among the elite in their home country. Especially haunting is the portrait of the well-meaning and haunted chess genius Kapsky, played by master actor Vesa Vierikko.
All in all, an adequate international debut from Harlin. Some plot lines could have been developed further, it looks a bit as if the crew ran out of money (or imagination) somewhere along the production. Anyone who is looking for a glimpse of what Siberian prisons really looked like during the Soviet era will be disappointed, this is pure fiction. Harlin already shows his great visual skills, both as a camera operator and as a special effects expert. Sadly, the script is a bit too thin and even a bit corny at times and the lack of funding shows.
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