21 user 11 critic

Born American (1986)

A trio of vacationing American students cross the border from Finland to the USSR during the Cold War and are soon imprisoned after a skirmish with Soviet soldiers.


Renny Harlin




Cast overview, first billed only:
Mike Norris ... Savoy Brown
Steve Durham ... Mitch Sheppard
David Coburn ... K.C.
Thalmus Rasulala ... The Admiral
Albert Salmi ... Drane
Piita Vuosalmi Piita Vuosalmi ... Nadja Kulakova
Vesa Vierikko ... Kapsky
Ismo Kallio Ismo Kallio ... Zarkov
Laura Munsterhjelm Laura Munsterhjelm ... Irina (as Laura Heimo)
Antti Horko Antti Horko ... Cossack
Pauli Virtanen Pauli Virtanen ... Sergei
Jone Takamäki Jone Takamäki ... Interrogator (as Jouni Takamäki)
Inkeri Luoma-aho Inkeri Luoma-aho ... Female Guard
Markku Blomqvist Markku Blomqvist ... Irina's Father
Sari Havas Sari Havas ... Girl at Party


Three American students vacationing in Finland, cross the border into Russia for fun of it. When they are spotted by the Russian soldiers who are shooting to kill, it's not fun anymore. Captured and thrown in jail, they find it's not fun either. It's a nightmare. Written by Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Freedom is just a word...until you lose it.


Action | Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The last film banned in Finland due to a threat to foreign relations (with Soviet Union). See more »


Interrogator: [while torturing Mitch] We really do have all the time in the world.
See more »

Alternate Versions

UK versions are cut by 20 seconds to get an '18' rating. See more »


Referenced in A-studio: A-Raportti: Nykyaikaa etsimässä (1985) See more »

User Reviews

An uneven movie with interesting parts
23 September 2000 | by dinky-4See all my reviews

This movie begins as one of those young-Americans-on-a-European-vacation affair. Then it shifts into an action-thriller as our three heroes, on a lark, sneak across the border into the USSR and are captured by Russian border-guards. At this point it becomes a grim prison drama laced with surrealistic touches. Then the final scene offers a hint of a boy-meets-girl romance.

While the movie doesn't quite succeed as a whole, individual parts worked well enough to propel Finnish director Renny Harlin all the way to Hollywood. Perhaps the best of these parts is the justly-famous torture scene in which a well-dressed interrogator who could pass as a college professor calmly, almost lovingly, attaches alligator clips to the nipples of Steve Durham in a series of screen-filling close-ups. These clips are attached by wires to a portable generator and soon Durham is jerking in pain from electrical shocks. However, the interrogator doesn't get the information he seeks so he concludes with a comment that he has all the time he needs in order to complete his task. (A better line might have included the thought that those alligator clips could be re-attached to other, even more sensitive parts of Durham's anatomy.)

Also worth noting are the scenes of a chess game played with prisoners instead of chess pieces, though not enough is made of this material.

Top-billed Mike Norris shows enough promise here that one wonders why his later film-career was so undistinguished. Albert Salmi and Thalmus Rasulala provide good support in small but pivotal roles. As for Steve Durham, he must be the only actor in the movies whose nipples are more recognizable than his face.

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USA | Finland



Release Date:

19 December 1986 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Arctic Heat See more »

Filming Locations:

Enontekiö, Finland See more »


Box Office


$3,401,376 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,225,475, 1 September 1986

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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