Russian body builder and actor Alexander Nevsky begins shooting a landmark production in Moscow this week.

His new film, Moscow Heat, marks the first time a Russian production, backed by Russian money, has hired a predominantly American cast and crew and brought them to Moscow to make a film.

Nevsky who has made his home in Los Angeles since 1999 is executive producer as well as an actor in the $10m Russian backed crime drama which stars Michael York, Adrian Paul, Richard Dyson, Andrew Divoff, Robert Madrid and Joanna Pacula.

The film is directed by Jeff Celentano (Primary Suspect) and produced by the Moscow based Czar Productions headed Alexander Izotov. John Aronson is DOP and Robert Madrid is co-producer.

The film follows a gang of criminal arms dealers who flee America to hide out in Russia where they are tracked down by the joint action of Russian, American and British agents.

Nevsky who plays a Russian cop who decides to help his foreign counterparts track down the criminals said: "This film is about showing the real Moscow and about providing a positive image of Russia in international cinema. We want to show a real Russian hero. And there are real heroes here and it is necessary to show them on the screen and to provide positive role models for our young people."

The film will shoot for four and a half weeks in Russia and possibly another week in New York. The film will be shot in English and dubbed into Russian for its Moscow premiere which is scheduled for February.

The Russian backed production reflects the continuing improvement in the Russian economy in general and the cinema industry in particular which has grown substantially over the past three years.

More than 100 feature films are being produced in Russia this year. Russian producers are no longer satisfied with being relegated to the art house or festival circuit but are determined to break into lucrative foreign markets.