By: John M Jerva
I love a good movie that delivers an action vibe that rivals anything we’ve ever gotten from the lost era of VHS. Movies like that will always be inviting and bring me back to a simpler time when all I had to worry about was teaching the Martial Arts and watching anything that went boom or kicked you square in the face.
Back in 2004, a rather curious gem of an action movie was released which immediately radiated all those comfy vibes I mentioned and it actually was the first movie that ushered in a new action hero in former bodybuilding champ turned ass kicker Alexander Nevsky. Upon arrival, Nevsky was immediately touted as the next Arnold Schwarzenegger as he pretty much embodied all that the action icon was known for. Moscow Heat would be the first foray into a decades long career in action films for the Nevskyator (see what I did there?) as he’s still going strong to this day.
Side note, I remember like it was yesterday when I walked into my local video store and saw this movie with its can’t miss cover art. It displayed a Schwarzenegger like figure running with an M-60 strapped to his back as he fired a pistol. Also, when you add attack choppers on it, I’m always there and even if they’re not actually in the movie. It just screamed excess and was just a great representation of selling indie action fare to the public.
Recently, the high profile, free movie streaming platform Tubi debuted the flick for a new audience where it’s getting a new lease on life and upon revisiting it, I was immersed back into the 80’s and 90’s when these types of films flooded the market. Now it’s important to note that Moscow Heat was released in 2004 so it wasn’t that long after the 90’s but watching it in 2022 definitely makes it feel like a worthy old school actioner.
The movie also stars veteran thespian Michael York (Logan’s Run) who to this day is still a curious choice to headline an action film but it does work in a kind of Yin Yang to Nevsky’s hulking presence. York plays retired Diplomat Rodzher Chambers who is seeking righteous justice for the murder of his undercover cop son and is on the trail of the ruthless arms dealer responsible named Nikolay Klimov played by Richard Tyson who was tailor made to play a bad guy in action movies. Tyson is especially nasty here and gets a few scenes to really make the audience hate him and patiently wait to see his earned fate. Chambers pursues Klimov to Russia to seek his justice but quickly learns that he’s in over his head and will need some major help.
Of course, things go awry and Chambers is forced to unite with Moscow Police, most notably Nevsky who stars as Vlad Stepanov (a very masculine action hero name), to finish his mission and bring down Klimov. Together they navigate the Moscow underworld which throws everything but the kitchen sink at them as our unlikely pair break into action to take down a criminal conspiracy. The usual chaos and mayhem ensues to desired effect.
Moscow Heat is a lower budgeted take on Red Heat which starred Arnie and James Belushi and there are many winks and nudges to that slice of 80’s era action. At one point Stepanov even asks Chambers if he knows Arnie. That’s one of the things I liked about this pic as it felt like a reimagining of the other and had some fun elements in it with an oddball duo going after a great threat.
The cast features some old school action stars with the most standout being Adrian Paul who is best known for playing Duncan McCleod in Highlander. It’s important to note though that Paul is only in a cameo role here as he doesn’t survive the early stages of the movie which was a missed opportunity in my book. Paul was solid in his scenes and what action he was involved in and I wanted more of him to be honest and feel somewhat that it should have been him teaming up with Nevsky.
We also get the one and only Andrew Divoff who was a staple in DTV flicks and always radiated a menacing quality to any role he played. He’s one actor that just personifies evil. There’s also Robert Madrid who would go on to star in such gems as Showdown in Manila and Black Rose which both featured Nevsky as well.
There’s plenty of action sequences to be had with your usual abundance of shoot outs and explosions. Even though nothing is really memorable, it’s still a fun time with Nevsky showcasing for the first time what he’s capable of on screen. The highlight of the film has Nevsky’s Stepanov dialing his one man army mode as he assaults a boat with all guns blazing as countless rounds of ammo sail by him. It’s a definite nod to the 80’s where Stallone and Schwarzenegger did these kinds of things on a regular basis.
The musical score amplifies the old school vibe as well as we are treated to one awesome synth score complete with electric guitar. I’ve always been a fan of this kind of action music and feel that is should make a huge comeback today. It just sales the violent interludes that are onscreen and heightens the explosive aesthetic of it all.
The cinematography is pretty solid with the film making ample use of the Russian locales. This gives the film a more polished look to it and a broader scope to the proceedings. I’m always impressed when smaller scale movies are able to make good use of their budgets to escalate the action with a much larger scale.
Now Moscow Heat comes complete with an abundance of suspect acting but once again that’s one of its charms. You know nobody here, even York, is gonna win any awards but they’re having fun and it shows that it’s all about the action.
Overall, Moscow Heat is an expendable action flick that serves its purpose and gives fans like me what we want. Nevsky throws his hat into the action star ring here and showcases the tried and true hero who needs no backup. York is somewhat out of place but it helps to a point as he works well off Nevsky and the two could’ve been any more different.
There’s enough action and mayhem in its running time and you know what you’re getting when you put this one in your player or check it out on Tubi. This is old school, throwback defined and these kinds of movies are a great reminder to what it was like to be an action fan 30 or 40 years ago.
I’ve been feeling nostalgic as of late, so coming back to Moscow Heat was just what the doctor ordered. Just simply turn it on, turn off your brain and enjoy the adrenaline laced ride. Be sure to check out this earlier effort from Nevsky as we wait for his upcoming action films Assault on Rio Bravo and Savage Attack!
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