Ray is in way over his head. He likes to think of himself in mythic terms, comparing his plight to that of Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods and brought it to Man—and who, for his punishment, was chained to a rock by Zeus and had his liver eaten by birds every day for eternity. Ray’s real crime, however, is neither stealing fire nor the high-stakes anarchistic computer hacking which has landed him in stir; it’s that he thinks too highly of himself. And that’s a pretty good metaphor for Moscow Chill, too.
From the pens of legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky and protégé Chris Solimine, Moscow Chill is a mixed-language production that takes the audience on a guided tour through the world of Russian gangsterism—courtesy of Ray, who is spirited out of an American psych ward by a Moscow mobster who knows that our hero is not merely socially maladjusted; he’s gifted in making dollars (and rubles) digitally portable.
Henchman Dolphin loads Ray into the back of a private transport jet, and upon arrival in Moscow leads him through prisons, safe houses, steam baths—and fashion shows, where Ray naturally hooks up with a pretty makeup artist, who provides the story’s love interest. The story’s tension is derived from the disconnect between Ray’s motives and those of his new “master,” who’s simply in need of loads of cash. But Ray doesn’t really desire wealth; he just enjoys sticking it to The Man. The real question is how Ray will manage to extricate himself from the clutches of these good-natured but vicious Russian fiends.
Can a Film be Hip and Meaningful?
To a certain extent, Moscow Chill has much of the feel of a Guy Ritchie film while aspiring to the grandness of something like Children of Men. It wants to be hip and irreverent, but meaningful, too. Toward that end, and in the interest of capturing an American audience for this Russian production, director Solimine shrewdly casts low-rent cult hero Norman Reedus as Ray, a move which guarantees that a good number of eyes will be drawn to this straight-to-DVD release. Reedus’ lazy energy is always compelling, and he is as good here as he has been anywhere else.
Sadly, the cast surrounding Reedus is not up to snuff, and most of the time Reedus looks as trapped as Ray: reaching for something mythically epic, but coming up well short. Solimine’s debut as a feature film director is competent enough, but just barely. It doesn’t feel like punishment—like, say, having your live ripped out by birds—but it’s no gift from the gods, either.
Moscow Chill is rated R for “language, some violence and brief nudity.” This is one for the big kids, definitely. I imagine there’s probably some setting in which parents and older children might enjoy watching this together, but I can’t really say what that would be. This is probably a better fit for bachelors on a bored night, or knots of high schoolers who think they’re gonna sit down and watch something really cutting-edge.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened an early cut of Moscow Chill that was missing the English subtitles for the Russian-language sequences—which undoubtedly hindered his enjoyment of the film.