Director: Anders Banke
Cast: Andrey Merzlikin, Evgeniy Tsyganov, Maria Mashkova
Synopsis: In Moscow, an enterprising female detective decides to turn a humiliating defeat experienced by her department into a reality-TV show in which the police prep for a counter attack.
It’s not just the Americans who recycle domestic hits from foreign countries, it seems, because Anders Banke’s Russian/Swedish co-production Newsmakers is actually a remake of a movie called Breaking News which Johnny To made in Hong Kong in 2004. Slavishly faithful to the original it is too, with impressive action sequences sandwiched between the interplay of a number of one-dimensional and stereotypical characters.
Newsmakers opens with a lengthy gun battle on a quiet Moscow street after a pair of traffic cops inadvertently pull over a van full of villains on their way to their latest heist. The thieves have got a small armoury of weapons in the back of their van, and an armed undercover surveillance unit headed by a cop named Smirnov (Andrey Merzlikin) keeping watch down the street. So when they decide to cut short the traffic cop’s interrogation with a little gunplay, they get a lot more resistance than they perhaps expected. In soon becomes apparent that these guys are professionals, though, and eventually they get the better of the police. If that wasn’t bad enough, a nearby TV unit captures the entire episode on film, including some embarrassing close-ups of a weeping cop begging for his life at gunpoint.
Damage limitation with regards to the police’s public reputation now becomes a priority, and an embattled chief takes the questionable decision of sanctioning reality TV-style coverage of the hunt for the thieves under the supervision of Katya (Mariya Mashkova), an ambitious, hard-nosed detective, who clashes with Smrynov when he enters the sprawling apartment block in which the robbers are holed up with a few hostages.
The idea of any responsible police chief – or TV station, for that matter – opting to broadcast a live feed of a potentially violent situation is, of course, quite ridiculous – although it might have appeared less so had the action taken place in a futuristic setting. Having said that, at one point the robber, having realised the police are broadcasting the siege, briefly use the internet to broadcast their own feed. Today, only six years after the making of Newsmakers, technology has advanced so much further that there must surely be a lot more mileage in the use of the internet by villains to influence public opinion over a given situation.
But Newsmakers is set in an ultra-realistic 2009, which is an uncomfortable fit for a fantastic plot device. The action sequences are pretty good – particular the opening one – but the quality of the writing is poor, with too many responsible people behaving impulsively or making irrational decisions, and there’s a noticeable lack of tension throughout. The Asians have a knack for this kind of thing – their shoot-‘em-up action movies nearly always have an element of comic book jokiness about them which director Anders Banke completely ignores. In fact, the half-hearted attempts at humour in Newsmakers are beyond lame, and the otherwise realistic setting simply emphasises how far-fetched the story is.
(Reviewed 16th September 2015)