Teenager Dima (Dobrygin) dreams of having a car to impress Nastya (Vilkova), the beautiful object of his affections. But when he receives an old Volga for his birthday, he gets a lot more than he bargained for...
Having made his mark on Hollywood with Wanted and the international success of first Night Watch and follow-up Day Watch, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov was determined to import a bit of American blockbluster onto his home turf — specifically the “American superhero film”, as he puts it. The result was the Bekmambetov-produced Black Lightning, a Russian box office-smashing tale of an ordinary student, desperate for some girl-impressing wheels, who comes into possession of a flying car and, following the tragic death of his father, uses it to fight crime rather than, er, deliver flowers.
It doesn’t take Benedict Cumberbatch to detect the heavy lifting from both Spider-Man and Transformers, but while Black Lightning aims high(ish), it strikes low. Mid-fi CGI is forgivable, but with the eponymous Volga (an old Soviet ‘classic’ model) zipping about at ludicrous speeds thanks to its MacGuffin-powered “nanocatalyst”, the action scenes are bereft of tension, their daft, live-action cartoon antics sure to turn off anyone old enough to read the subtitles (hence, we suspect, the movie’s ‘direct-to-DVD’ status over here).
Bekmambetov is planning an American remake. Will the translation address the painful clumsiness of a hovering car as a crime-fighting device? And, more crucially, will it answer the burning question that plagued Empire throughout: Hasn’t anyone in this movie heard of a HELICOPTER? We are, frankly, doubtful.
This Bekmambetov-produced actioner wears its influences (Transformers, Spider-Man, Back To The Future) lightly, but there's scarcely enough tension to elevate it above routine hokum. We await the US remake with unbaited breath.