If Karen Oganesyan’s “The Ghost” hadn’t been so blatantly tooled as an item for Hollywood remake, it might have proved to be a clever fusion of the twin Russian obsessions for the criminal underground and the literary world. When the film’s bestselling crime novelist hits a creative slump and finds sudden inspiration from a hitman who could have popped from the pages of one of his tomes, the action flirts with outright comedy, but turns into a merely mediocre shoot-’em-up straining for effect. Surefire local B.O. likely will gird a future deal with a Stateside studio.
Author Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is signing copies of his latest book, “The Ghost’s Revenge,” in a Moscow bookstore when he witnesses hitman Mikhail (Vladimir Mashkov) perform a swift assassination across the street. Beset with his own personal and familial demons, Anton proves vulnerable to Mikhail’s entreaties to let him provide the author with an insider’s view of the life of a killer-for-hire. Even half-interested viewers will be far ahead of Anton in his shock that he’s become a pawn in Mikhail’s larger game, which turns out to be only slightly intriguing.