Movie Review: Comrade Olga Kurylenko brings the “High Heat”

The Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko is in on the joke in “High Heat,” a glib, action-packed and surprisingly-amusing riff on the time-honored “I am NOT a person you’re gonna want to f— with!” thriller.

It’s a straight-up B-movie, and like a lot of them it tries too hard to be jokey. But all involved have a little fun with it, which pays dividends in the damnedest places.

Kurylenko wears her long Bond Babe locks loose in the kitchen as executive chef at EToile Rouge, micromanaging and somehow avoiding getting hair in the food. She barks orders, as a Russian chef in a high end French eatery should.

“I speak four languages and you’re telling me about MISCOMMUNICATION?”

Her husband Ray (Don Johnson) and co-owner is the glad-hander, a bourbon sipping charmer who runs the front of house, making every diner feel special.

“‘WALK-ins?’ NO. I’d rather be in the red than take ‘walk-ins!'”

It’s opening night and he’s got a framed four-star review in The New York Times to give her, which should tell us something, and not just that the screenwriter doesn’t know how restaurant reviewing works.

Because Ray’s got these “serious” guys who want to be seated. Actually, Mickey (Ivan Martin, going for a Vince Vaughn with glasses thing) needs Ray to come see Dom, his dad. And Ray is brushing him off.

Not good. And when the goons show up at closing time and Ray sees his maître d gunned down, he’s a little rattled. Not a lot, because this murder is never spoken of again. But things just got ugly.

It’s just that Dom’s son and Dom (Dallas Page) himself must not speak French. The name of the restaurant translates as “Red Star,” mon amis.

One testy telephone exchange of “I am NOT a person you wannas” later, and it’s go-time. How many made men does it take to take down on ex-KGB cook?

The lithe, athletic Kurylenko has long looked at home with fight choreography, and the right editing makes her a credible kick-ass here. Granted, she is playing a chef and a kitchen is filled to the ventilator fans with lethal weapons.

Director Zach Golden, whose other big screen credit is the Ron Perlman Western “The Escape of Prisoner 614,” keeps this more or less on its feet, if never entirely at a sprint. And everybody, including the “specialists” the mobsters summon when the chips are down, is in on the joke.

We’re talking “overtime rules” here, Dom.

But we need to take a little time to get to know the reinforcements Chef Anna (Anya) calls in. Things didn’t end well the last time she saw her old pal (Lover? Maybe?) Mimi. And now her fellow ex-spy is racing in from the suburbs, testing her in-counseling marriage and dragging along their teenage twins because “We don’t TRUST you!” alone in the house.

This whole story thread, with shades of “The Americans” and “RED,” in an unalloyed hoot. Whatever first-produced-screenplay writer James Pedersen put on the page, the casting of this flip and funny sidebar makes barely routine action picture just a smidge better than routine.

They cast real, snide and “Shining” scary twins (Chiara D’Ambrosio, Bianca D’Ambrosio) to play the girls annoyed at mom’s latest “bring your daughters to work” night. Chris Diamantopoulos of TV’s “Silicon Valley”) plays the patient sniper who takes his sweet time cleaning his rifle, riffing on the couples therapy speak their “on her THIRD marriage” marriage counselor fed to them on their many visits.

“I won’t let your stress disrupt my peace!”

But it is Kaitlin Doubleday of TV’s “Empire” and “Nashville” who really brings the funny to “High Heat.” Her face is a mask of intensity as she’s racing her family to the shootout in her sport maternity vehicle. Watch her “after school pick-up” face when she’s stopped by a “construction worker” who won’t let them through.

Listen to her the way she plays her reaction when Mimi’s loving husband suggests she cut someone they’ve captured “some slack” when the lady NEEDS some information.

“I wouldn’t exactly be a TORTURER if I ‘cut him some SLACK, Tom!”

“High Heat” isn’t remotely as gonzo as the funniest films of this genre. It’s limited, a B-movie with no prayer of ever having the resources, cast or comic rewrites of a “RED” or “Free Fire.”

But it is what it is, and it knows what it is — not a particularly novel or life changing experience, but not all bad either.

Rating: R, graphic violence

Cast: Olga Kurylenko, Ivan Martin, Dallas Page, Kaitlin Doubleday Chris Diamantopoulos, Chiara D’Ambrosio, Bianca D’Ambrosio and Don Johnson.

Credits: Directed by Zach Golden, scripted by James Pedersen. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:24

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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