Film Review: Maximum Impact

Wacky hijinks threaten to derail joint U.S.-Russian efforts to negotiate a treaty in this self-proclaimed comedy-thriller that is neither particularly funny nor conspicuously thrilling.
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American Secretary of State Robert Jacobs (Eric Roberts) has been dispatched to Russia for a very important meeting. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that his madcap adopted granddaughter, Brittany (Polina Butorina), has stowed away because, she says, she always wanted to see Russia, where she was born. Nice work, crack security team.

Among the many problems threatening to derail this goodwill trip are terroristic threats, bodyguard Barnes’ (Tom Arnold) prostate problems (he has to pee more frequently than a whole tour bus full of pregnant women), a bad guy named Andrei Durov (Evgeniy Stychkin), whose nickname is “Hammer from Hell” and whose code name is “Papa Bear,” which is two names too many for one guy in a movie stuffed to the seams with “colorful characters,” and even badder bad guy Mr. Sanchez (veteran very bad guy Danny Trejo). And yet another bad guy named Tony Lynn (Mark Dacascos), who used to be the star of a TV show called “Shaolin Cop” (credit where it’s due, the brief excerpt from “Shaolin Cop” is genuinely funny)—German tourists still recognize him on the street. Plus, the real reason Brittany wanted to come to Russia is that she’s in an online relationship with Pavel Chernov (Aristarkh Venes), the weedy front man of a Russian boy band called Multiverse, and wants to meet with him IRL.

Among the running jokes are the fact that everyone recognizes Tony Lynn, except that they all think he’s some other guy, like Jet Li or Lou Diamond Phillips; the presence of an inept paparazzo determined to get a shot of Brittany and Pavel together; and, yes, that Barnes seriously has to pee all the time. Oh, and that FSB agent Maxim (Alexander Nevsky and, yes, that’s his real name) is one of the good guys, except that it’s not clear that’s actually a joke. If not, then it’s a radical rethinking of the image of the FSB, formerly the KGB—not an organization known for its kittens-and-rainbows aura.

As befits its one-from-column-A, one-from-column-B title, Maximum Impact—written by Ross LaManna (Rush Hour)—is a tribute to the notion that if you just keep throwing things at the wall, eventually something will stick—though why that’s supposed to be a good thing was never entirely clear to me. And while the argument has been made that genre hybrids—action-comedies, for example—offer something for, if not everyone, then more viewers than straight-up action pictures and flat-out comedies, the Beverly Hills Cops of the movie world are pretty rare. Far more common are pictures like this one, with its international cast of second- and third-tier actors, its undemanding story (unless, of course, you’re hell-bent on making sense of it) and its hollow efforts to create urgency by upping the ante: Oh, look…now there’s a nuclear threat! It's the kind of movie that can keep you from obsessing about the fact that you're unable to sleep without demanding real engagement or focus, whether you’re sleepless in Seattle or Saint Petersburg.