3 1/2 Stars
Born American is Renny Harlin’s debut feature film. It shares several remarkable similarities to Red Dawn, Rambo, Russkies, and a dozen other 1980’s action flicks. This independently produced foreign film proves that international directors can make Hollywood-like content, even while geographically stranded thousands of miles away from sunny California. In this case, director Harlin has chosen to shoot in his native Finland. The harsh and snowy terrain serves as a stand-in for the Russian setting. The rugged look and simple-minded plot present the film as a relic of a jingoistic era of action cinema.
Three American youths on vacation in Finland decide to cross the border into Russia as a prank. Their immature actions lead to their being captured, jailed, and tortured. This because the Russians believe them to be a trio of spies. While in prison the young men are subjected to the sadistic behavior of the inmates and the brutality of the guards. The ultimate fate of the American’s lives hinge on a human version of chess being played in the bowels of the penitentiary.
The tremendous plot developments of the third act, complete with a military truck set ablaze which crashes through a border checkpoint, make this one of the most entertaining movies of the era. Renny Harlin shows a sense of style and control of tone. While also delivering a healthy dose of action. Born American is a treasure from the Mom & Pop video store era.
Director: Renny Harlin
Stars: Mike Norris, Steve Durham, David Coburn