Login

Back in the U.S.S.R. Review

Image for Back in the U.S.S.R.

Brian is an American tourist, who after a series of misunderstandings and an unhelpful US Embassy, finds himself trapped in an unpleasant and dangerous Moscow. The only person to help him is local woman Lena. The two fall in love and she helps steer him past Moscow's more nefarious criminal elements.

★★★★★

Billed as a romantic thriller, this is the first of several proposed Russian-American co-productions, and although it showcases Moscow to good effect, the result leaves little promise for the future. Archer Sloan (Whaley) is a whiny American tourist trapped in Russia following a series of misunderstandings involving a stolen icon and various underworld villains. His only ally is Lena (Negoda), a hard-bitten Muscovite, who, together with her black marketeer friends, tries to steer him around the more unsavoury elements of the city.

Against a dark backdrop of a disintegrating Moscow, where lawlessness rules and even the American Embassy staff can't be trusted, Archer and Lena search for the missing icon, get into trouble and — yes! — fall in love in a post-Glasnost kind of way. At times confusing, at others downright depressing, what really stops this from being even an interesting oddity is the inane script which is both repetitious and cliché-ridden. "I don't have time for this," moans Whaley on a tediously monotonous basis, trying to inject some kind of pace into the proceedings.

Brian Blessed pops up, hamming shamelessly, as one of the many criminal factions, while director Roman Polanski puts in a particularly evil turn as another underworld villian.

Ultimately, you don't care if Whaley escapes Moscow or not, and when Polanski barks at him, "What is it about you that makes me want to hit you?", the answer, unfortunately, is all too obvious.

More from Empire