The Second Front (2005)

Rating: C+

Dir: Dmitri Fiks
Star: Craig Sheffer, Lana Litwak, Todd Field, Ron Perlman

This two-fisted tale of wartime derring-do stars Sheffer as the square-jawed American hero, who must prevent, at all costs, Jewish scientist Nicky Raus (Field) and his research from being captured by the nasty Nazis, led by Perlman. To this end, he brings the plane transporting Raus down in the German-occupied Ukraine, and has to extract the boffin from the farmhouse where he’s being kept, while the aircraft is repaired. He’s helped by a Russian actress (Litwak), who’s disguised as a nurse inside the house, and teams up with a Soviet snatch-squad who are also keen to stop Raus’s knowledge from falling into the wrong hands.

This is straightforward to the point of simplistic; it’s mostly running around and shooting, but is done with enough energy to remain enjoyable, like a 50’s serial. And at least the Russians speak Russian, and the Germans, German: well, save Perlman, whose character seems strangely uncomfortable in his “native” language, and though the switch to English is contrived, it’s welcome. However, he does have fun with the role, and the entertainment value ramps up a notch when he’s around. Sheffer is okay, though perhaps too heroically able (He flies planes! He speaks Russian morse-code! He knows kung-fu!), but Litwak is clearly dubbed, and the last time that enhanced anyone’s performance was My Fair Lady. Between that and the voiceovers, her replacement is certainly kept busy. Can’t say I was impressed with the ending, on a number of levels; until then, however, this is acceptably-stirring stuff.