REVIEW: DVD Release: Newsmakers

Film: Newsmakers
Release date: 3rd May 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 105 mins
Director: Anders Banke
Starring: Andrey Merzlikin, Yevgeni Tsyganov, Mariya Mashkova, Sergey Garmash
Genre: Action
Studio: Showbox
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Country: Russia

A remake of Hong Kong crime thriller Breaking News, Newsmakers changes location and opts for the gritty streets of Moscow. Not much was expected from the inexperienced director Anders Banke, although with such a good central plot, there was undeniable potential.

The film begins with a brutal gunfight in broad daylight between a group of robbers and the police. Unfortunately for the government, the press are on hand and film the inefficient and incompetent police attempting to take the crooks on. Camera footage of the fight is spilled on to every news channel, and to add to the humiliation, a police sergeant is seen crying and pleading for his life.

As far as the government are concerned, and with grenades exploding in the streets, “this is war.” Captain Verbitshaya, the PR Director, proposes a plan to harness the media and use it repair the image of the police. Verbitshaya (Mariya Mashkova) explains that each officer will have a camera on his helmet filming the siege on the robbers (because their location has been conveniently stumbled across), and it will be edited to promote the governments handling of the situation. Despite the controversial idea of turning a police operation in to a reality television show, there seems to be no debate of the idea, and Verbitshaya is given centre stage to control proceedings.

The apartment block where the robbers are hiding is the central location in the film and we spend most of the 102 minutes watching events unfold here and in the surrounding area. The robbers hold up with a family of three (one incompetent dad and two children), with whom they eat lunch - probably the film’s standout scene, with great comic timing (the father tells his children to thank the robbers for the skill in which they made the food and decides to open a twenty year old bottle of Armenian brandy because he feels he is now finally host to ‘proper’ company).

Aside from the police outside, a special police team led by Smirnov (Andrey Merzlikin) is seeking to catch the robbers the 'Die Hard way'…

Newsmakers is about the power of the media and the controlling influence it has on the lives of fellow Muscovites. If harnessed correctly, it is a means of maintaining the social order. But when it exposes the shoddy police force at the beginning of the film, it holds the state up for criticism and this cannot be tolerated. The film shows that media is never independent and always has an agenda. In a multimillion-pound industry, the appeal of influencing the event as well as controlling the coverage of it is increasingly appealing. It has a very James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies feel to it.

Newsmakers show how easily we can be manipulated, and in the context of Soviet history this is especially important. There is even a wall emblazoned with the Soviet ‘CCCP’ to remind us of this. Statements, unfortunately, are made with a heavy hand, with little for the audience to work out for themselves.

The film also fails by not developing ideas properly, or opting for the obvious. This is partly due to the massive amount of time dedicated to the various shootouts, with bullets fired in their thousands. But it was well worth expanding the dialogue in certain parts, especially between the robbers and children, as this provided a great platform for exploring the differences between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. When, at the end, Verbitshaya has her face (rather than her hands) covered in blood, it places the responsibility of the bloody final shootout on the media in a blatant and rather undignified way.

The acting is average, although this can be attributed to the amateur dialogue the actors are forced to work with. The best performances come from Mariya Mashkova, who puts in a determined effort, and Andrey Merzlikin, who plays the rugged and unconventional cop quite well. But with lines like “he’s a criminal…I’ll eat him,” it is difficult to take the characters too seriously.

The one saving grace of the film is the subtle comedy. When the panicked father places a whole chicken in a frying pan, or when the police snipers stop for a filmed lunch, it raises a smile. There is also a comic scene when Smirnov and his team of Special Forces are fired upon by ‘Crackpot’, a spaced out inhabitant of the apartment block who believes demons are after him. But the message here is more political than comic, so these positives are ultimately only a bonus.

On the whole a confused film, but for fans of gunfights, Newsmakers does offer some exciting and fast paced shoot out scenes. Tones of potential, but unfortunately does not quite pack the punch it set out to. 

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