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The Brother Review

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Discharged from national service without having fired a shot in anger, Danila (Bodrov) turns assassin when he joins his brother Victor (Sukhorukov) in the big city. However, the ability to treat his married mistress (Pismichenko) to a VCR comes at a price, as both Victor's Mafia bosses and the henchmen of a murdered Chechen are hot on his trail.

★★★★

Although it broke box-office records and earned cult status among Russia's increasingly with-it teenage population, Aleksei Balabanov's low-key film noir arrives here most proudly parading a stinging rebuke for peddling designer violence and knee-jerk nationalism from no less a luminary than the country's premier filmmaker, Nikita Mikhalkov.

However, Balabanov can argue, and with some justification, that he is merely reflecting the realities of modern Russia in employing the same stylized authenticity that Warners used to depict contemporary gangland activity in the films of James Cagney.

The American influence pervades almost every aspect of this brutal study of the St. Petersburg underworld, whether it's the references to McDonalds or the overall sense of pioneer survivalism.

Discharged from national service without having fired a shot in anger, Danila (Bodrov) turns assassin when he joins his brother Victor (Sukhorukov) in the big city. However, the ability to treat his married mistress (Pismichenko) to a VCR comes at a price, as both Victor's Mafia bosses and the henchmen of a murdered Chechen are hot on his trail.

Filmed in unforgivingly naturalistic colour, this is a stark, dispiriting portrait of a society spiralling out of control. Xenophobia and disorder go hand in hand with urban decay. Thus, with so little on offer, Danila can hardly be blamed for grabbing whatever he can get.

It's also virtually impossible to begrudge Danila his little slice of happiness, as he's portrayed as such a dimly charismatic lummox by the excellent Sergei Bodrov. His Stateside adventures, in the forthcoming Brother 2, will be keenly awaited.

A stark, dispiriting portrait of a society spiralling out of control.