Dima is a status preoccupied young man who receives a junk car for his birthday that at first seems like the absolute wrong thing for his already pathetic social state. He discovers however that the car has some hidden abilities, but he’ll also soon learn (the hard way) that thinking solely of ones self can lead to very real and lasting consequences.
At the end of the day, this is a modestly budgeted action film. People get slapped, punched, stabbed, shot, and generally run into (or over) by all manner of vehicles. Car chases are the name of the game, as can be expected from a film with a car on the poster.
Thankfully though, I can report that as an action movie Black Lightning delivers. The film is produced by Timur Bekmambetov (9, WANTED, Day Watch/Night Watch) and it shows. For all the flaws that Timur has in storytelling, he’s always made up for it with flashy and effective visuals. The action is staged mostly quite well. It’s hard hitting and packs a punch where necessary. You won’t have much to complain about by the time the credits role.
For better or worse, stories aren’t told the same way. What one culture holds dear, what another society finds funny; is different from one part of the world to another. For this reason it’s always important to watch a foreign film within the context of their cultural and social nuances. As much as we are different however, we tend to share just as much in common. In other words, bad writing is bad writing.
Black Lightning takes the tried and true (and tired) storyline of “big business vs little individual” and just sleepwalks through it. A particular plot point (as evidence) just had me scratching my head. It’s suggested (with a straight face) that the big bad has designs on reclaiming the technology that powers the wonder-car for a risky mining operation. So, I’m supposed to believe that instead of selling access to said power source for the purpose of powering every darn electronics device on the face of the earth, for a great big bundle of cash (I might add), the super rich thug has come up with the genius idea of mining for stones under Moscow proper. A decision that the script itself acknowledges is highly risky and dangerous. Who wouldn’t want to needlessly risk jail and their current wealth instead of making billions upon billions on top of what you’re already bringing in just by selling your new found technology…
Another bothersome fact was that almost everyone in the film seems to lack a working moral compass. This is a pretty big deal when it comes to buying into some of the relationship progressions that drive the feature. By my count, maybe two characters (Dima’s mother and sister) make it the whole film uncompromised. In their case, it’s purely due to lack of screen time. I’d go into more detail, but risk major spoilers to prove my point. Suffice to say, it’s a problem that unfortunately scares off the payoff. The moral issues also grated me because this is supposed to be a picture marketed at young adults. I suppose the counter argument would be why I wasn’t so bothered by the violence in the film. To that I say it’s harder to convince someone that violence against others is an agreeable action, it’s much easier to convince someone that a white lie or a verbal misdeed is acceptable because the consequence and outcomes are not as immediately evident as pain and death. I’d make a joke about how I’m getting too old and that’s why I’m worried about this stuff, but I’m far too past the age for that excuse.
Thankfully and as previously stated, the film is still worth watching for the action/adventure elements. It’s Superman if he were a vintage Russian 4-door.
If you stop to think about the story too long, you’ll quickly tear this film apart, but as a check your brain at the door popcorner, it’s worth a drive through. Just remember to keep away from children.
B+ grade – for action
B+ grade – for special effects
C- grade – for storytelling
Overall Score: B-