Starring: Alex Chadov, Andrew Chadov, Glory Chichivarin, Karina Hidekel
Slove, the debut film by writer, producer, and director Iurii Korolev, who for this film’s release is billed by the Nordic-Teutonic moniker Jürgen Staal, is an interesting mélange of international B-movie action clichés in service of a specific reconfiguration of Russian masculinity.
A brief opening sequence shows a tranquil domestic setting, in which three young brothers are huddled on pillows in their living room while they are being trained by a stern father in the art of perseverance and concentration required by long-distance snipers. These brothers are Grisha, Sergei and Aleksei Ronin, who grow up to become soldiers in an elite Border Guard unit. In an intense firefight with Central Asian drug smugglers, Grisha is killed. Having been dismissed for disobeying orders during the skirmish, Sergei becomes a police captain in the St. Petersburg police force. “Zorro,” as Sergei now calls himself, has his own particular rogue way of policing, which does not endear him to his superiors.
On a furlough from his Border Guard unit, Aleksei visits his brother Sergei. He assists his brother in a mission to arrest a second-rate Mexican drugs and casino gangster, who is attempting to muscle into the local market after failing to branch out into US territory. Aleksei attracts the attention of two powerful officers in the Ministry of the Interior, Colonel Savelii Kotov and his high-ranking bespectacled adjutant Ludwig Karlovich Wingen. They offer him a position as a sniper for the Ministry, so that he can continue his job of killing people in the “civilian world” for the sake of justice. Aleksei has doubts because his task would be “too obscure”—there are no clear-cut enemies and he does not consider himself “entitled to determine their fates.” How, he asks the Colonel, would they be “different from the bandits” if he shoots them without trial?
Kotov, however, knows how to manipulate Aleksei’s ethical reservations to his advantage and secretly instigates the release of the Mexican gangster. In the face of such an obvious travesty of justice, Sergei questions his chosen profession and Aleksei changes his mind, now convinced that his services as an assassin for the Ministry are necessary. Aleksei is given a call sign “Slove” (rhymes with “love” and pronounced “Slav”), apparently an invented portmanteau contraction of the English phrase “soldier of love.”
Reviewed by Daniel H. Wild © 2011 in KinoKultura