Official Synopsis from
Scala Productions and J&M Entertainment website
This self described "fast,
funny, and genre-conscious" film is a hilarious post-Cold War comedy fueled by love,
opportunism and triple-crossing betrayal. The story unfolds in a wintry Helsinki and
centers on two spies with nothing left to spy on but each other.
Harry (Bill Pullman) is a seasoned CIA
agent who wants nothing more than to forget his years of dirty duty in places like
Nicaragua, to become his cover - a Helsinki jazz club owner.
Natasha (lrene Jacob) is a young, ambitious SVR (KGB) agent with more chutzpah
than experience, who wants to secure a future for herself amid the uncertainty of the
floundering SVR and Russian Republic.
Natasha's assignment to spy on Harry has blossomed into a torrid love
affair. Like any career couple, they keep secrets from each other, but theirs have
The delicate balance of their life together is disrupted when a young over-eager CIA
agent, Dave (Glenn Plummer) arrives in Helsinki to intercept a videotape encoded
with state secrets en route from New York. It's content is so hot that everyone who has
come in contact with it, is now dead. Dave pursues the unsuspecting courier, Max
(Bruno Kirby), a manic ex-bond trader, who stumbled into the job fresh from a prison
sentence for stock market fraud.
For Natasha, the tape could be a ticket out of the SVR and into the American
Dream, if she crosses her boss. But as satellites hover overhead and the rusting Russian
fleet leaks radiation nearby, absolutely everybody except Harry hatches a
personal plan to exploit the encoded tape.
Harry is left to stop Natasha from getting herself killed, or worse -
leaving him for America.
Bill's Take on his character "My character has come to
Helsinki because he wants to be a low-level guy, he's not interested in the James Bond
kind of action. He's looking for the slower part of the stream. When the story picks up,
I'm heavily into a relationship with a low-level Russian operative, who is also watching
"It's almost like the espionage side of things get in the way of his relationship
with Natasha, unlike James Bond, whose relationships tend to be a bit of a
nuisance to his espionage work'.
"We're playing this quite straight and the comedy kinda comes out of that. Harry's
a retro beat kinda guy a little bit caught in the 1970's. You only have to look at
his car an off-road 1970 Chevy, and there's always a little Lou Reed playing on the radio!
He's no James Bond, he's a Jersey guy whose decided he's done with the nasty undercover
work. He just wants to have himself a good time now. He's running a nightclub and he's
getting his idea of a groovy little joint going. He's got a girlfriend who just happens to
be a Russian agent. He's happy until things warm up just a little too much".
Other Production Notes:
Director Ilkka Jarvilaturi began shooting on 2 November 1998 in Helsinki, Finland with
other localities being New York and Toronto. Jarvilaturi wanted Bill for the lead
character of Harry. "When we started casting, I knew right away that Bill was our man
to play Harry.. . He's an absolute natural for the part--intelligent, wry, and charmingly
Producer Kerry Rock saw Bill in more practical (i.e., bottom line) terms: "Bill
was the cornerstone of the casting process. We needed someone the right age, who was
enough of a name, who could do the humor as well as being scary and believably violent at
the tough spots of the story." Co-star Bruno Kirby also found Bill to be the perfect
match: "The great thing about Bill is that he looks very straight, but if you look
him in the eye, there's a real crazy sense of humor there."
On working in
Helsinki: "There's nothing like working on a movie to see great
places," says Bill, "it's better than going to any travel agent. We've had some
of the best locations--a former czar's fishing hut that was our Lapland hotel in December.
And in Helsinki there some of the best art nouveau architecture anybody's
seen." Bruno Kirby said that he was really ignorant about what Helsinki was about.
"I was expecting this dark place, with nowhere decent to eat, with unfriendly people.
In reality, it's been the opposite. It's a wonderful city, with wonderful, highly educated
people, great restaurants and great shops. The people want to talk, and they are very
proud of their city, and they love the fact we're using Helsinki for Helsinki."
On that famous spa scene: One of the highlights of the
trip up to the tundra was the sauna scene and Harry and Natasha's amazing leap into a
freezing cold lake. Bill says, "It was a bit like walking to the gallows. The Finns
were all telling us that they do it all the time. I told them I thought it would be
awfully nice if at least one person did it before me, so I could see it didn't kill you!
No one stepped forward... So, anyway we did it, and we lived to tell the tale. I was
really surprised how the body sort of juices up afterwards and you feel quite warm."
The Soundtrack: Since Harry runs a jazz nightclub, the
music for the film is a combination of sixties soul, cool jazz. Much of it is dance music.
Bill actually can play the trombone, but no one thought that was sexy enough for the film
(Huh! Never underestimate the power of a man with a great 'bone.--ed.) Courtney Pine
did the original soundtrack and plays in the band in the film.