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.