The Apocalypse Code

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“Proof that cheerily mindless action pics are not the exclusive domain of Hollywood.”

About ten minutes into this, as another large explosion filled the screen, Chris turned to me and said, “Is this a Michael Bay movie?” While it isn’t, confusion is understandable: this is just the kind of dumb action film for which he is renowned, featuring basic plotting and large-scale mayhem. Terrorist Jaffad is just about to sell four nuclear warheads he has hidden in major cities worldwide back to the Americans, when his entire compound is taken out, at the command of a mysterious figure known as “The Butcher.” FSB Agent Marie (Zavorotnyuk), who had previously been working undercover to get to Jaffad, just manages to escape the slaughter, and is now assigned to track down the Butcher, by getting close to his financial advisor, Louis (Perez). Jaffad gave parts of the eleven-digit code that can be used to detonate the devices, to trusted colleagues in Italy, Norway and Malaysia, and Marie needs to find the code before the Butcher.

Expensive by Russian standards, yet relatively cheap ($13.5m budget) by American ones, this certainly provides bang for its buck, whizzing around the globe like the Bond movie it mostly wants to be, while putting its heroine in a selection of glamorous costumes and wigs (prefer blondes? Marie can provide for you too, as shown in the pic at lower-right). Shmelev has a good visual eye for proceedings, shooting and framing the action with some beautiful work, and makes the most of his locations. Zavorotnyuk has good screen presence, and I liked that no-one made much mention of her sex; she’s just another agent. It gets bonus points simply through its origins, which confer a different approach – when the Americans show up (though it’s difficult to tell, since everyone speaks Russian), they aren’t particularly good or bad, just there.

However, the plot is not novel at all, the efforts to give Marie backstory are near-laughable, and once the novelty of the Russian heroes wears off, the script has little to offer: significant fragments don’t make much sense, and other scenes seem to be there, just to prove the makers actually went to the locations. Action-wise, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag; it seems pretty clear the lead actress isn’t doing much of the action herself, but there’s a nice fight at the end between Marie and the villain, in front of the console which can be used to detonate the bombs, as a self-destruct timer counts down. You can also enjoy a gun-battle on a boat, and Marie stocking the corridors of a hotel [you’ll understand why I spelled it like that, hohoho].

It originally came out in Russia more than three years ago, and I’m a little surprised the film apparently hasn’t had any kind of official release in the UK or US. It’s glossy, well-produced nonsense, that completely fails to engage the brain or heart, yet kept me adequately interested for 105 minutes, with plenty of eye-candy [note to Chris: I mean the exotic locations, darling…] and giant fireballs. While I’ve already forgotten much of what happened in this, it is as good a stab at creating a female Jason Bourne as anything Hollywood has yet managed.

Dir: Vadim Shmelev
Star: Anastasiya Zavorotnyuk, Vincent Perez, Vladimir Menshov, Oskar Kuchera

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