Moscow Chill is a lackluster attempt at a thriller. Norman Reedus, playing the ostensible protagonist Ray, is muted and mostly emotionless as the genius hacker who aids the Russian mob. The film never rises above mildly interesting, and often falls well below.
The film opens with Ray driving around with a friend, hacking in to ATMs and getting them to dispense free cash by the hundreds. He is quickly nabbed by the police and sentenced to six months in a rehab facility (he is "addicted" to hacking) and banned from ever using a computer. Days before his release, he is violently broken out of jail by Dolphin (Slava Schoot), the fun loving flunky and enforcer for Russian crime boss Dubinsky, and flown secretly to Moscow.
Dubinsky, played by Vladimir Kuleshov, used to be Ray's mother's accountant, but is now a prince of the Moscow crime scene directing his empire from his prison cell. (It would be intriguing to see how he moved from one position to the other, but the film barely nods at this neglected plot point.) Dubinsky heard that Ray was locked up for his hacking crimes, and now wants the young fugitive to steal millions of dollars for him by intercepting bank transfers. Ray readily accedes, and leaps head first into the world of the Russian mob. He quickly finds a girl to obsess over, and makes fast friends with his fellow criminals Dolphin and Vasya (Konstantin Yushkevich). Complications sort of arrive when their plot is discovered and Ray is chased around the country by the police, the army and various criminal elements.
Moscow Chill is hampered by a number of factors. Firstly, though Reedus can and has turned in enjoyable and flamboyant performances, he is not given a lot to do here. Even in situations in which most of us would be hyperventilating from panic (such as, say, being kidnapped out of rehab by Russian mobsters and forcibly taken to another country) Ray maintains a bored equanimity. Whether in prison, being chased by gun toting thugs, or romancing his lady love, he varies between polite disinterest and mild irritation. Still, Reedus outshines the other actors he is cast with, most of whom don't have the skills to smooth over the often wooden dialogue.
Also, though Moscow Chill is putatively a crime thriller, it is not terribly exciting. Sure, there are shootouts, police raids, double crosses, chases and escaped circus bears, but all this results in a confused muddle rather than engaging action and intrigue. Things are confused further by the lack of subtitles for the considerable amount of Russian dialogue, leaving us mono-linguists in the dark about much of what is going on. There is also quite a problem with characterization. Ray's conspicuous lack of emotion has been mentioned above, and is not the only puzzling character trait among the cast. Denizen's of the Moscow Chill universe often act in ways not consistent with human nature. Not only does Ray fall passionately in love in a matter of hours with literally the first Russian girl he meets, he is also quite surprised when his co-conspirators turn out to be significantly less nice than he had thought and, shockingly, kill someone. Did he think that they were stealing tens of millions of dollars for a Kiwanis charity drive? Other characters as well will make radical behavior changes or decisions that have little or no rationale or basis in previously developed personality traits.
Moscow Chill tries to be a film with depth, mostly evidenced by Ray's frequent allusions to Prometheus and "seeing with God's eyes", but things are too scattered for the viewer to gain any kind of insight or even idea of what director Chris Solimine is driving at. The theme has something to do with not lusting after filthy lucre and following your dreams and possibly the reason that Russian strawberries are so delicious (it's because of the long winters), but things never become clear. On the bright side, the film looks very nice. The cinematography is economical and effortless, and the crumbling Russian locations have a decayed beauty of their own. This is not, however, enough to save the film from eventual obscurity.
The video quality is generally good, but as this is a check disc, no judgment can be made on the quality of the final product.
Sound is Dolby 2 channel, but as this is a check disc, no judgment can be made on the quality of the final product. No subtitles or alternate language tracks were available on this disc.
The only extra present is a fairly standard trailer for the film.
Moscow Chill has good intentions, and tries to be a quirky, independent take on the urban crime thriller. The uninteresting plot, clunky dialogue and mediocre acting talent (with the exception of Reedus, who is ill used) keep it firmly in below average territory. A moderately intriguing concept fails to play out in any kind of interesting way. Don't expend too much effort trying to find this one at the local video store.