Sunday, 13 March 2011

Alexei Balabanov: Brother - Брат (1997)

Director: Aleksei Balabanov
Script: Aleksei Balabanov
Camera: Sergei Astakhov
Designers: Vladimir Kartashov, Nadezhda Vasil'eva (costumes)
Producer: Sergei Sel'ianov
Cast: Sergei Bodrov Jr., Svetlana Pis'michenko, Viktor Sukhorukov, Mariia Zhukova, Sergei Murzin, 
Running time: 96 min. Russia. Color.
Production: STV (Russia)

Russia's biggest box office hit in 1997, Aleksei Balabanov's (Dead Man's Bluff) Brother is an American-style gangster flick mixed with a pointed social consciousness. World cinema has shown us views of raw, impoverished post-Soviet Russia; Brother shows it with stark gunplay and one captivating lead performance.

Danila (Sergei Bodrov, Jr.) returns from army service to a St. Petersburg transformed into a casual culture high on music and consumerism. The chaotic atmosphere, carefully depicted by Balabanov's moody camerawork, easily invites the smug, belligerent Danila into a world of crime. Soon the youth is accompanying his brother Viktor, a contract killer for the Russian underworld, on violent escapades where wads of cash and a well-gripped gun are the ultimate symbols of power. Bodrov's cynical, brutal performance, reminiscent of tough-guy roles from countless Hollywood mob movies, further conveys the sense that 1990's St. Petersburg is not a far cry from from the blood-strewn Chicago of the late 1920s. And like Bogart and Cagney, Bodrov makes his morally challenged hero strangely likeable.

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