This Russian production consisting of two parts needs special attention. Why? Because I believe the two action movies are infinitely better than most contemporary Hollywood counterparts. Especially since you probably haven't even heard about this.
Na Igre a.k.a. Gamers: In search of the target a.k.a Hooked (2009)
Without having any knowledge about this particular production one could think this was a less serious one or aimed at a more youthful audience. At least that was the impression I got at the start of the movie when the viewer gets introduced to the main characters,a bunch of teenagers competing in games like Counterstrike.Since I did know in advance it was going to have sci fi elements I was expecting some sort of Matrix rip off. Especially when this unknown individual rewarded the youngsters with a special bonus prize a DVD with a special game on it. Of course something was going to happen when this DVD was going to be used. When this disc for some unexplained reason enhances them in a way that their gaming skills have become real it is actually funny to see how quickly they adapt to their situation. But then it is over with the fun and games and it gets quite serious. The movie gets more fast paced and tightens the grip on the viewers. At one point I did had trouble with some of the actions of the main characters since some of the motivation was pretty poor. Then I realized that this could be one of the points the director was trying to make. Even if it was unintentional I am sure of it that people will have discussions about it although most of the events are completely over the top when morals are concerned. The action for the most part looks realistic (as in barely use of CGI) which is superbly choreographed. Even the acting is very good. However with all these good elements there was one thing that bothered me slightly. And that was the abrupt ending. This movie ends on a cliffhanger. Fine if it is a TV Show. But bit risky if you ask me in case the sequel never gets made. Luckily it got made so no problem there. Definitely worth for people who love action.
Na Igre 2
a.k.a. Hooked 2: The Next Level (2010)
Na Igre 2 directly follows Na Igre which ended in a cliffhanger. It does assume you have seen the original since there is no recapping apart from the final scene. The fast pace, good action and the surprises from the first part are present and then some. Maybe too much, at one point it became a little difficult to root for the main characters as the distinction between good and evil was extremely blurry. I personally had a little hard time believing that once good friends would turn on each other so quickly. And it never became quite clear if it was because they were changed because of the discs that made them into super heroes or that they acted on greed and would act that way without the discs. Although there is a scene in which Vampire says the discs made him lose control he and the others do seem very much in control. The conclusion in my opinion was extremely weak. For one thing the strong villains in the first were only a fraction of their former selves. Which would have made sense if a certain time period had passed. It did feel like that the makers of the movie were running out of ideas and decided to end it as quickly as possible with barely a description of what happened after. I think action aficionados won't mind that much. Overall Na Igre 2 is a good sequel but does seem a little rushed.
Even with the sequel being less strong as the original it still is as good or even superior to recent Hollywood action movies. It surprises me that in this world which is getting smaller there still is barely a place for productions like these in the local cinema. If one is lucky you could watch it at special festivals or Arthouses. And that is almost criminal if you ask me.
Director Pavel Sanaev contacted me and pointed out that there is a director's cut you can check out underneath. The studios had forced him to release his film in two parts which he wasn't happy about. Haven't been able to watch that cut myself yet but once I do I will write a review on that and compare it to original releases. Do watch the film and spread the link wherever you can since the film is very deserving of a big audience.