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  • Warning: Spoilers
    The amount of nonsense in this movie is just overwhelming. A group of Americans (3 young men) goes to Finland to drink some beer and shoot some cans from a shotgun (because there is no way they'd be allowed to do that in US... right). Then the story takes a weird turn and becomes un-watchable:

    The group decides to illegally cross the border into USSR for no apparent reason. Then, they end up in a village, where they kill the priest, a few civilians and a bunch of soldiers who arrive to the village shortly after. We are not even going to focus on the fact that an army of soldiers armed with AK assault rifles can't hit a target located just a few feet away, but the main characters managed to kill everybody by shooting AKs with just 1 hand.

    Trying to escape, they burn half of the village down and eventually end up... in the same village, where they get caught and sent to prison. In prison, the story becomes so twisted that you can't watch it while being sober. More people get killed. Apparently Russian prisons have bazookas and Israeli UZI in their armory. Who knew?

    So, what's the bottom line? A few guys illegally cross the border, kill dozens of civilians and soldiers, get imprisoned, kill more people, escape, cross the border illegally again... but it's OK, because they are Americans.

    TRASH
  • If I were to pick two words to describe this movie it would be unbelievable and unpredictable. Unpredictable because not a single moment of this movie could be foretold. And unbelievable because it has above a 4 rating on this website. This movie doesn't deserve the use of stars, it should be given its own rating system of awful, like a 5 rectum review or something. I mean this movie stinks up something awful, so awful I had no choice but to express my sincere concern that someone else might one day view this movie, or worse pay for it. Please dont... Renny (the brilliant director of other favorites such as Cutthroat Island and Driven) has presented something truly unique to the world of cinema this time however. No protagonists and no antagonists, at least no clear ones, any time we start to develop any kind of sympathy for a character he kills them! any time something happens in this movie it is wasted, unused, unexplained. Here this should sum up the movie: 3 kids go to Finland (for spring break i guess, it has become quite the hotspot) and within 2 minutes are driving to the north pole for no reason. We soon find out that 2 of these guys are your traditional jocks/heros and one is a worthless nerd. The jocks bring guns and a bow and arrow set while the nerd just has unbelievably nerdy things for a vacation like, a camera! and clothes! and food! Our "protagonists" pick on the one normal and decent character in this movie to the point where A) its unbelievable they would be friends let alone the best of friends and B) we hate the kid too. They then shoot a few things on the border of lapland and Russia (during the cold war mind you) and decide it would be best to cross the border with their weapons to "check it out,'" like the ground would be paved with gold and the streams would flow with vodka. They then forcefully kidnap a girl so they can tell her "not to be scared," I mean i fully thought they were gonna rape this girl, but it turns out they just wanted to ask some questions. The girl screams and as you would expect they are then captured by villagers and accused of murdering a small girl by an occultist/demon possessed priest (no explanation of course) who has brain washed a village... So our americans kill everyone... EVERYONE! The military shows up so they kill more. You may be thinking... Why is this guy giving away the whole movie. I'M NOT, THIS IS ALL IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES!!!! we havent even gotten to the HUMAN CHESS MATCH where the opponents fight to the death (apparently remmy doesnt quite get the concept of chess, what if the pawn took the knight when the knight was taking the pawn? well thats giving this movie too much credit). I watch bad movies a lot. If you are looking for one you've found it. Its damned funny, and a wonderful example in what drugs you should never take when you are on a deadline to make a movie. Just please understand, in no way is this movie good. It couldnt be good if it tried, it breaks every rule of film, theater, story, human relation, history, etc. This movie just, sucks.
  • Born American (GB title: Arctic Heat) is a bad, bad film and it's made worse by the fact that it portrays every level of Russian society in a very unflattering manner. I'm well aware that at the time of this film's release, relations between the US and the USSR were strained, but the offensive depiction of Russians in this film is enough to drive even an American viewer for the exits!

    The story concerns three young Americans vacationing in the Arctic Circle region of Finland. Whilst deer hunting, they stray into Russia and in their efforts to escape they inadvertently decimate a small town and its army garrison. After all that, they are captured anyway, and find themselves thrown into a Siberian prison camp where they are to be forgotten forever, thus cancelling out any embarrassment or tension their actions might have caused between the two war-mongering nations.

    The drab and freezing prison scenes are boring, but they at least convey Russian prison conditions effectively. The part of the film that displeases me most is the ludicrous, violent episode in which the three Americans try to shoot their way out of the Russian village. No disrespect, but if three men from any nation did that in another country (other than their own), surely it would be only right and proper for them to be thrown into jail for a very long time. This film asks us to sympathise with them, but in my opinion they deserved all the punishment they received..... and more! Don't bother with this film. It's xenophobic and offensive in the extreme.
  • A "first movie" for a director is often quite interesting to watch. Sometimes the movie is excellent, sometimes full of film student stuff and pretentious tricks and usually tries too hard with too little. Born American is of the third variety.

    The story follows three guys who are vacationing in Finland and cross over the border to the Soviet Union. Guess if the Soviets are depicted as interesting characters or something else (hint: this movie was made in the 1980s)? Anyway, things start exploding (often with the same sound effect). Also the Russians prove to be evil etc. Which is sort of interesting considering there was some tendency to self-censoring in Finland towards these kinds of things.

    The plot is actually quite ridiculous because it goes way over the top at one point. It really feels like they had made the movie up to that point and they noticed they have way more money left so they added more things - or bought some of that new crack-cocaine. Some twists really made me laugh out loud in their outlandishness or how cliché they were.

    Actually, if this movie starred Chuck Norris, for whom it originally was planned, it would be quite well known after that Chuck Norris revival fad. Now it's just a curiosity for anyone interested. As a Finn, I'm ashamed of this movie by Renny Harlin (he DID make a few good movies, though. I still like you, Renny). Ashamed and also proud, few countries have something unifying like this that people all around the world can laugh at.

    The bottom line: DIY MST3K.
  • This movie begins as one of those young-Americans-on-a-European-vacation affair. Then it shifts into an action-thriller as our three heroes, on a lark, sneak across the border into the USSR and are captured by Russian border-guards. At this point it becomes a grim prison drama laced with surrealistic touches. Then the final scene offers a hint of a boy-meets-girl romance.

    While the movie doesn't quite succeed as a whole, individual parts worked well enough to propel Finnish director Renny Harlin all the way to Hollywood. Perhaps the best of these parts is the justly-famous torture scene in which a well-dressed interrogator who could pass as a college professor calmly, almost lovingly, attaches alligator clips to the nipples of Steve Durham in a series of screen-filling close-ups. These clips are attached by wires to a portable generator and soon Durham is jerking in pain from electrical shocks. However, the interrogator doesn't get the information he seeks so he concludes with a comment that he has all the time he needs in order to complete his task. (A better line might have included the thought that those alligator clips could be re-attached to other, even more sensitive parts of Durham's anatomy.)

    Also worth noting are the scenes of a chess game played with prisoners instead of chess pieces, though not enough is made of this material.

    Top-billed Mike Norris shows enough promise here that one wonders why his later film-career was so undistinguished. Albert Salmi and Thalmus Rasulala provide good support in small but pivotal roles. As for Steve Durham, he must be the only actor in the movies whose nipples are more recognizable than his face.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the kind of film that only could have been made during the mid 80s. It was advertised as a Rambo-style action flick here in the states. Back then, as a junior high kid, I was really pumped to see it. The film ended up being an interesting, but largely unfocused story of three young American men who take an unwarranted trip into the Soviet Union and pay a big price for it.

    The three protagonists are two Alpha-males and a nerd. One of the Alpha-males was played by Chuck Norris' son, if I recall. These three are driving around Finland above the arctic circle shooting guns, guzzling beers, and taking pictures. After stumbling around in the woods for a while, they come across the border to the USSR. And like idiots, they decide to sneak over to the other side for fun. This is all within the first 10 minutes. After that, one bad thing after another happens to them, leaving the viewer little choice but to feel that these jokers had it coming.

    First off, they are blamed for the killing of a local village girl. When we find out who really did the killing, that is one of the more intriguing points of the film. I wish the film could have just stayed in the village and explored this plot rather than jumping the tracks and moving on to more ridiculous elements later on. Anyway, the three are set to be executed, and somehow elude their captors in an incredibly violent shootout. Now on the run, with one of their party wounded, the three are easy prey for Soviet troops as they try to make their way back to Finland.

    Of course, the boys are captured in one of those typical "border scenes" where all the spotlights are instantly turned on, revealing the helpless victims who are now at the mercy of the evil commies. After being brutally interrogated, the three are dumped into a gulag somewhere in Siberia to be forgotten. The place is no Kolyma, but it certainly would suck to be in there. Not only are the conditions rough for regular prisoners, but beneath the prison is a game of human chess! Real people are used for pieces, and the losers are apparently killed! Yes! I have never seen anything like that in a movie before. Too bad they don't spend enough time dealing with this game, or the people who play it.

    Finally, with the help of a mysterious prisoner the lone remaining American is able to fight his way out of the prison and escape with a young woman he has fallen in love with along the way. All this in just over 90 min!!! This film was directed by a now-famous Renny Harlin. He demonstrates some genuine skill with the limited budget this film obviously had. The problems are more at the screenplay level. Too many questions are not answered, and too many paths not properly explored. Just who in the hell was "The Admiral"? He was no David Robinson; that's for sure. What was he doing in the prison? What were his plans once he got out? And how in the heck was the last American going to get out of the USSR?? After all the damage he did??? Come on! The film could have been much better, but it still manages to hold some interest. Good luck finding this one on TV, but a spare copy of it is no doubt floating around on Amazon or somewhere like that.

    5 of 10 stars. The Hound has spoken.
  • valkalab18 February 2007
    I am a 60-year old Russian born in Estonia (a Baltic country annexed and occupied by Russia 1940-1991). I have travelled a lot by hitch-hike around the USSR and seen what the life was like there. I know the grim Russian reality first-hand.

    That is why I disagree with a comment saying that Born American "is a bad, bad film and it's made worse by the fact that it portrays every level of Russian society in a very unflattering manner".

    In fact, the film is realistic -- therefore its portrait of the Russian society is unflattering. The Finnish producer seems to know much more about the real life in Russia than many in the West. Later the film turns into an 'action'. But the general picture of the Soviet-time Russia is true.

    Until the Soviet bloc collapsed this film could not be demonstrated here: it was banned. Moreover, Moscow made a protest to the Finnish government, even demanding that the film be banned from cinemas in Finland! Can there be a better proof that the film demonstrates the Soviet/Russian reality in a honest way?

    Indeed, for a person in the West it may be hard to believe that such reality can exist. But may I tell you that an elderly Estonian exile once told of having cried watching a film about Russian slave labour camps, while other western audience laughed. People just couldn't believe it was possible -- but she knew, and she cried.

    Valeri Kalabugin Tallinn, Estonia
  • I understand this cheap film was made in the middle of 80s, but .... Really ?! It's worse than trash.
  • So what is the truth about 'Born American' (or Arctic Heat)? The full truth is, that it is a debut movie of an action director who has done couple of hits and a couple of misses. And despite of its childish and almost propaganda like portrayal of the soviets, it does have a couple of interesting scenes in it.

    It's easy to say, and see, that BA is an product of its era. Cold war was on and Soviet Union was seen as a huge menace. It's not only action film painting this kind of images about the soviet union, but maybe it is one with the most over the top approach, as almost all the Russians are shown as dirty and almost barbaric lunatics.

    The plot is quite simple: three Americans are exploring Finland and they decide to cross the border to Soviet Union. The silly sods venture deeper into the Russia and are soon caught, which leads into an action scene, where almost everything explodes or burns down. Later, when the yanks are taken into the prison/labor camp the movie turns towards so unrealistic direction, that you don't know to laugh or to cry.

    'Born American' isn't Harlins best movie, but surprisingly enough it ain't his worst either. It lacks the fluent movement of more experienced director, but over all as a debut movie it has some merits working for it. In 80's standards the action works pretty well and out of all brainless action movies made during that era it fits in pretty well with the rest of them.
  • This movie is interesting as it is directed by a Finn and is filmed in the Republic of Finland, and most of the extras are Finns. Since there isn't too many Finnish films in English marketed towards an American audience, this film is unique in itself. You can see how the Finns used to view their Russian neighbors and also what an aspiring Finnish director thinks would appeal to American audiences. The film is pretty hit and miss but the human chess scenes are quite entertaining.
  • The movie was directed by Renny Harlin who has never done anything good and it's a wonder why people keep letting him make films... such as: Deep Blue Sea (1999), Long Kiss Goodnight, The (1996), Cutthroat Island (1995), Cliffhanger (1993), Adventures of Ford Fairlane, The (1990), and Die Hard 2 (1990).

    This is the only movie I've ever walked out on. Basically three red-blooded American boys are deer hunting in Finland. They ignore HUGE signs in English warning them not to wily nilly cross over the border into the USSR. They happen on a town where there's been a murder. Borrowing from most Doctor Who plots, it's assumed the new comers committed the murder. With their shotguns they proceed to level the town and slaughter most of the paratrooper garrison stationed there.

    In one classic scene, as the characters discuss the virtues of America and why it has won them the battle this day, a flaming man casually runs by.

    Alas their brave fight is in vain for they're captured and promptly handed over to the KGB. For reasons not explained, their release is negotiated by a British diplomat. Ostensibly the USSR and the USA do not have diplomatic relations so the Brits are asked to help. This Brit is as evil as the KGB. Over vodka and comely sex slaves recruited from a nearby Gulag, the boys' fate is decided. They're to disappear... this little matter of 3 American boys wiping out a regiment of the USSR's finest troops would be an embarrassment to all concerned.

    After having their nipples wired to car batteries and some torture, they're thrown into the Gulag.

    We're now forced to endure scene after dreary scene of them cold, damp, sick, and suffering in a recycled set from Hogan's Heroes.

    For more reasons not explained, there exists a labyrinth under this gulag where guards force prisoners to play a form of living chess. Prisoners battle each other to the death with crude knives, maces, and trash can lids for shields.
  • Not a great movie, but then, it starred Mike Norris, not known for great movies, though in this one he did more acting than usual.

    David Coburn as KC was the best part of the film (if somewhat uneven) while the character Mitch was the worst. He had no real redeeming qualities. Frankly, I was rooting for him to die so I wouldn't have to watch him anymore.

    Most striking was how much "stuff" Renny Harlin managed to fit into the film. If only it weren't so disjointed or so full of gratuitous violence.

    A must for Coburn fans. Great moments and a great comparison piece to see how much he's grown as an actor.
  • I first saw this in the late 80's with a friend of mine who rented the VHS (no DVD's back then!) We were smoking a lot of marijuana back then and I recall being shocked by the more memorable action scenes, especially the Pepsi bottle incident. I think I stood up when that happened.

    How can you NOT rub the side of your face after watching that scene? ANd yes, the chess game scenes were creepy. The trio of two rough-house guys with the computer-geek friend seemed to work.

    Also notable: Norris' Kung Fu moves while beating up Russian soldiers. That is one of the feel-good-to-be-American perts of the movie.

    Anyway, I bought the DVD and watch it once a month.

    I MADE my twin 10-year old girls watch it too.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Freedom is a word....Until you lose it." In the 80's, there was glut of movies about the conflict between America and Russia. Some notable examples include: Red Dawn (1984), Russkies (1987), Red Heat (1988), and later there was Armstrong (1998) with the classic tagline: "The Cold War is heating up..." Oft-forgotten among these more well-known titles, is "Born American". This time around, three American party dudes, Savoy Brown (Norris), Mitch (Steve Durham), and K.C. (David Coburn), rather than go to a warm, tropical climate, decide to drink beer and enact their wacky shenanigans on the snow-filled border between Finland and Russia.

    Sure, everything is going swell between their sessions of shooting their giant bow & arrow at playing cards and doing the limbo under the actual border, but for a fun time prank, Savoy decides it would be a real hoot to cross over some barbed wire and some armed guard towers into Russian territory.

    Unfortunately, after a mix up or two involving the humongous bow & arrow, now the whole town is after them. The gang is taken in for questioning and the evil warden thinks they are a terrorist group. So they are thrown into prison. The place is a rat-infested hellhole and K.C. is injured and slowly dying. Luckily, there is "The Admiral" (Rasulala), a friendly American who lives in the basement of the prison and works for the C.I.A.

    It all comes to a head when the gang is forced into a deadly game of human chess that involves some light punchfighting. Will Savoy and his buddies escape the prison with their life intact? Just imagine a cross between the aforementioned "Red Dawn" and Midnight Express (1978). Norris later of Death Ring (1992) fame does a non-silly (as opposed to later in his career) job as Savoy. He even yells not once, not twice, but three fan favorite yells: "NOOOOOOooo!" He also has the prerequisite training sequence before the big human chess match. There are some rocket launcher blow-ups that are welcome.

    The problems are: the movie takes itself way too seriously. Also it is hard to feel bad for the gang because they are in this predicament because of their own stupid decisions.

    All in all, "Born American" is a decent addition to the 80's-movie-fascination-with-the-cold-war-with-Russia boom.

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  • I suspect this film was made by the Finnish to pander to Americans. From watching Hollywood movies, they knew Americans despised the USSR, and Americans like to be the heroes. And, hey, Finland is right up here with Russia, so we have a plausible plot and our country kind of looks like Russia!

    The three Americans being self entitled idiots traipsing across the border is actually reasonable, but sheesh, it gets ridiculous quick. For example, one of the "good guys" is in a tiny church that's on fire, and the Russians close the door. So he- bolts it closed! Wtf??

    And speaking of "good guys", uh, I'm supposed to like the three American guys why now?

    This movie is totally surreal, because the Finn movie makers didn't really understand Hollywood movies. But that does give it a weird charm, like a Twilight Zone episode.

    It's really more like a horror movie than a drama.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • eyerishroses28 June 2007
    I thought this was a very good movie! Very realistic. I think people should consider how lucky we are here in America, for this is one movie that can show how cruel the rest of the world can be. The three boys do not listen to the one that sees the sign. Crossing the boarder. Was very dumb on their part. This shows, also to me anyways , how lenient our country is with boarder hopping. Our aliens should count their lucky stars. We put up with so much, while other countries are very harsh. The movie show one example of this. I think the movie is helpful to showing people what other country's would do. I have watched this movie quite a few times, showing it to others. They all liked it, and even discussed the situation the boys were in. A very good learning movie!!!
  • This is an interesting film considering the era this film is from. This may seem like your average B-class action movie, but it also has a political tint to it.

    The film is intentionally over-the-top critical to USSR. At the time the norm in Finland was ass-kissing the USSR, not ass-kicking. Times were tense, and the film pis*ed of (or scared) politicians so much that is was BANNED in Finland at the time.

    B-class it may be, but it still is probably one of the best Finnish action movies of all time. (Well, depending on whether or not you count war movies as "action movies"... Finland has produced some very good war flicks.)
  • BORN American marked the feature directorial debut of Renny Harlin who in fact went on to direct well known films like PRISON, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, DIE HARD 2, CLIFFHANGER and DEEP BLUE SEA, just to name a few.

    This film however is actually pretty good, its not a masterpiece but definitely worth seeing, many people have said this film is far fetched it actually isn't, it is pretty accurate in its portrayal of the events it depicts and of the soviets which it does in a really unflattering way, the story itself is fictional.

    The acting is actually very good, the best performances are given by Mike Norris and David Coburn, who pretty much carry the film.

    Overall, Even though its not a masterpiece it is worth seeing, the acting is great and the direction is handle very well by then first time director Renny Harlin.
  • Cal-168 December 1998
    This film makes me want to stay home and thank God every day that I live in such a wonderful country. Even the good guy turned out to be a bad guy in "Born American". Shook me to my foundations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    BORN AMERICAN marks the directorial debut of Finnish director Renny Harlin, who would jet off to Hollywood after this to knock out the likes of DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER. Although low budget, this US/Finnish co-production is fairly well-paced and has some interesting omoments. The story involves a trio of American youths (one of them played by Mike "son of Chuck" Norris) who end up in a Russian border town, where they're wrongfully accused of murder and must fight for survival. They eventually end up getting captured by Russian troops where bad stuff happens, including a game of chess played with human pieces. It's an anything-goes kind of production, certainly not the greatest, but rough and ready and with a fair bit of action to see it through.