For its sheer commercial chutzpah alone, RED HOT deserves some kind of honorable mention. Even though the USSR is no longer Hollywood's all-purpose whipping boy, it functions here as a pre-Glasnost devil incarnate: an anti-rock'n'roll dictatorship!
Back in the 1950s, the Soviet government censors the recreational tastes of the populace. Imports like American rock'n'roll are considered subversive enough to guarantee a one-way ticket to Siberia. When his traveling musician uncle, Dimitri (Armin Mueller-Stall), smuggles in Jerry Lee Lewis and
Elvis 45s, promising classical music student Alexi (Balthazar Getty) gets his first treat of the foreign phenomenon. Alexi shares his treasures with his buddy Sasha (Jason Kristofer) who makes bootleg copies and starts an underground craze among the Kremlin teen cognoscenti. While coaching snooty
Valentina (Carla Gugino), daughter of a prominent KGB chief, in a state-approved piano class, Alexi introduces her to the big, bad Yankee Doodle beat. Because ambitious KGB staffers want to discredit Valerie's powerful father Kirov (Donald Sutherland), agent Gurevitch (George De La Pena)
investigates Kirov and the spread of pop music among Russian adolescents like Valentina. Although Alexi, Sasha, Yuri (Hugh O'Conor), and Vlad (Colin Buchanan) dream of starting the first rock n roll band in Russia, the KGB crackdown leads to Uncle Dimitri's arrest and reported suicide. Railing
against the government s suppression of their right to jam, the quartet rehearses for a furtive concert even after Vlad is beaten up by authorities. On the evening of the big recital that will determine their future in the state-approved job market, Alexi and his merry men hold a teen crowd in
thrall with their music. The results are assorted arrests, separation of friends, and eventually, Alexi and Valentina's flight to asylum in Oslo seven years later. Even Stalinism couldn't drown out America's greatest musical export.
The most ludicrous anti-dictatorship musical since SWING KIDS, RED HOT alternates between being a meandering thriller about political persecution and a wanly-flavored period romance about two musicians from different social strata. It's "Romeo and Juliet," but it has a good beat, and you can dance
to it. Although the press kit proclaims the film was filmed in its entirety in Latvia, it really seems to have been shot at the Hollywood Professional School during a visit by Nikita Kruschev. Not only does the flat tone of the unpolished young cast in no way suggest Volga Boat-teens, but none of
the hairstyles or costumes really fit the period of the 1950s. What RED HOT really desires is to build a date-movie around a potentially best-selling CD of classic rock n roll.
Not outrageous enough to be a camp howler, the movie opportunistically panders to a jaded teen audience not likely to fall for all the Stalin-era caterwaulin'. A viewer's only reaction is bemusement that the schlockmeisters thought that dropping American stars into a foreign locale automatically
transforms them into representatives of that farway land. Was there an equivalent of San Fernando Valley in fifties Russia? Has nostalgia for the fifties become such a dead horse that we have to beat it on the Russian Steppes?(Violence.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG
- Review: For its sheer commercial chutzpah alone, RED HOT deserves some kind of honorable mention. Even though the USSR is no longer Hollywood's all-purpose whipping boy, it functions here as a pre-Glasnost devil incarnate: an anti-rock'n'roll dictatorship! Back… (more)