Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Viktor Kuptsov (Viktor Verzhbitskiy) is one greedy bastard. Somewhere under the foundation of Moscow are some diamonds and Viktor, an evil billionaire industrialist - as if there are any other kind of movie industrialist – wants these diamonds. That’s cool and all but when we meet Viktor he has his crew of scientist using a really big drill to get these diamonds. Problem being that if he goes any deeper he will basically implode the city of Moscow. That’s not cool and Viktor does not care. Fortunately for Moscow Viktor’s drill isn’t near powerful enough but one scientist is aware of a substance that will make this drill powerful enough, a substance known as the nano-catalyst. Finding this nano-catalyst is going to take some time however as the Russian based superhero movie ‘Black Lightning’ begins its journey.

A few years later we meet our hero Dmitri (Grigoriy Dobrygin), an intelligent, hard working college student with parents who love him and a bratty little sister who looks up to him. A couple of things happen which will alter Dmitir’s life course. First he sees the pretty girl Nastya (Ekaterina Vilkova) and his heart is finished. Next his best friend Maxim (Ivan Zhidkov) has just purchased a dope new Benzo and Dmitri’s envy is high, particularly when Nastya jumps in the Benzo. Next his father (Sergei Garmash) buys him a car for his birthday, but unfortunately it’s a really old Volga which no self-respecting college aged young man would want to be seen dead in. Finally the afore mention Viktor gives a guest lecture during one of Dmitri’s business classes. Think Gordon Gekko minus the compassion, recognizing that Gordon Gekko had no compassion, and you get an idea of what Viktor was lecturing about. Now Dmitri knows what he must do to get what he wants, and that includes stomping on people, walking over people and doing whatever needs to be done to get paid and get that girl.

Independent of this Viktor has discovered where this nano-catalyst he’s been searching for is located, and this location would be inside a 1954 Volga. Why is this super substance inside an old sedan? It’s complicated, so we’re not going to get into all of that, but there it is. Eventually Viktor’s men find this car being driven by Dmitri and give chase. They have the boy cornered and it’s looking like it’s head on collision time but… Dang if the Volga can fly. Literally.

Initially a car taking flight freaks Dmitri out, but then he figures a flying car can be a good thing as uses this new found gift he’s been given to boost his bottom line. His father isn’t happy about this capitalistic change in his son, no doubt and old school Soviet hardliner. Nastya, who thought she like the boy, isn’t happy about this change in him either. Then something bad happens. Really bad. And it’s all Dmitri’s fault. Dmitri realizes the way of greed is not the way at all and now he is using his flying car, labeled by the local press as Black Lightning, to fight crime and help save lives.

That’s a good thing, but now Viktor has found the car and now that he knows where those nano-catalysts are located, he’s going to get these diamonds he so desperately wants and implode Moscow in the process. Again, it’s kind of complex how we got here, but to get what he needs Viktor has tricked a team of scientist into transforming his fancy Mercedes into a flying car. One with missiles and stuff. A Mercedes with missiles beats a Volga with an A.M. radio any day of the week. But a boy in love with the fate of a city and millions of lives in the balance against a greedy capitalistic bastard? I’ll put my money on the boy in love working for the proletariat.  For the Workers!

No doubt about it, this little Russian superhero movie directed by Dmitriy Kiselev and Aleksandr Voytinskiy is mighty derivative. You have a large helping of ‘Spider-Man’ with a dash of ‘Wall Street’ mixed in with a healthy dose of ‘Back to the Future’, topped off with a smidgen of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. There are probably more derivatives that our filmmakers drew upon for inspiration, but that’ll do for now. Ah… but making a derivative movie doesn’t mean that one has made a bad movie, just a movie that lacks originality. And while ‘Black Lightning’ isn’t the most original tale ever told it is still a very spirited one. Come on now, a flying Mercedes with a missile guidance system? That could never get old.

The story that supports our derivative tale is more than a passable as one would expect from a story that might be somewhat originality challenged, the special effects, while probably not up to the level of Industrial Light and Magic, were still pretty good with all of the flying cars and exploding rockets and blowed up buildings. The performance from the cast was more than adequate with Viktor Verzhibitskiy giving us one of the more casually evil bad guys in recent memory… strictly business with this guy, and young Grigoriy Dobrygin doing a solid job of going Bruce Wayne on us with his somber, depressed take on the action hero.

One interesting aspect of this film was the representation of what Russia is now versus what Russia used to be. Old reliable Russian car versus fancy new capitalistic symbol of a car. The older Russian guy who remembers a simpler time was an honorable man. The older Russian guy who embraces these more complex free market times is anything but honorable. Does our pretty girl go for the guy with the money, a guy who seriously lacks a social conscious, or does she go for the guy with no money who has nothing but the best interest of the people in his heart. This after he found out that the whole money grubbing thing isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Fascinating.

Yes ‘Black Lightning’ is a little cheesy here and there and I expect the younger the viewer happens to be, the more entertained they will by this movie, providing this young person can read subtitles, but it is still entertaining enough for anybody at any age. Word on the street is there is an American remake of this movie in the pipeline. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, considering the derivation factor will be much more pronounced stateside than I imagine it would be in Russia, and it would seem to me this story would need some serious re-tooling for American audiences, and the politics are totally not going to work over here… but nobody’s asking me for my opinion.

Real Time Web