Born American (1986)

I so wanted this to be a Finnish attempt at Red Dawn. Just think, a bunch of American guerillas taking on the entire USSR, all on the snowy border with Russia. Sadly, we can’t always get what we want, so instead of Red Dawn, this is a prison movie. A prison movie staring Chuck Norris’ son! Hell yeah!

Savoy, Mitch, and K.C. are your typical American tourists: loud, obnoxious, and drunk. They head up to Finland, because of course, drunk American tourists with guns want to go hang out in the Arctic, drink, shoot guns, and maybe find some hot locals in the middle of nowhere. Instead, they find the Soviet border, and since they’re drunk, they decide what could be the worst that could happen? If you think “get accused of murder, fight off an entire Soviet village in a burning Russian Orthodox Church, and then go to Soviet prison,” you’d be correct.

The rest of the movie is a prison film, where Savoy ultimately must meet up with an American mercenary known as the Admiral, save his buddy Mitch from a killer chess game in the prison’s bowels, join up with a lady Russian prisoner, and escape by shooting people and blowing up stuff. Along the way, there are a couple of decent fist fights, some torture, an awkward voyeuristic shower scene, an awkward sex scene involving shaving cream, rape (though not of the prison variety), and a training montage that was probably one afternoon of exercise, both in real life and in the universe of the movie. Ultimately, Savoy escapes with Nadja and the Admiral’s book, kills a KGB agent, and walks off into the snow while a postscript tells us the US complained, the Soviet Union denied it happened, and the event never officially existed. In short, everybody sucks.

That’s kind of the general theme here: the US and USSR suck. The Soviets engage in torture by smashing a Pepsi bottle over one guy, digging a pen into a guy’s bullet wound, using a car battery and nipple clamps to instill pain, and so forth. The American emissary sent on behalf of the CIA to talk about an exchange instead implies it be better if the fellas all get killed and then tries to rape a lady prisoner who was brought to him for just that purpose. Meanwhile, the locals all think the Americans are murderers despite the Russian Orthodox priest having done the deed, and the other prisoners steal their stuff as quickly as possible and in general act like assholes to them. Nobody’s nice, so everyone ends up having to learn the rules of this little society and try to make the few friends they can to watch each other’s back. Yep, it’s self-reliance, baby!

One thing I do appreciate is just how messed up the heroes get in this movie. As much as I enjoy Red Dawn, I enjoy it for its ridiculousness; a bunch of American teenagers proving to be effective guerillas with no training against Soviet forces? Only in an action movie! But here, these guys show off their skills and still end up messed up, shot, cut up, wounded, and psychologically broken by their ordeal. They don’t all survive, and even the friends they make on the inside don’t get out in one piece or are simply too crazy to ever be ok again. It feels realistic that these guys would be broken, up until the end. Once the training montage and sex scene hits, we’re back in full action territory, and the last ten minutes mostly consists of machine guns, bazookas, and glorious explosions. And for that, we love it.

Also, there is something fantastic about knowing this is how the Finnish filmmakers view US citizens.

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