Aclassic Europudding set in a couple of countries, with actors speaking English in a rich variety of accents, “Brute” at first seems to have some potential as a gritty slice of social realism, but the clunky writing, acting and direction ensure that this pic never takes off. Film’s prospects look to be as brutal as its subject matter.
Pic’s premise is based on a real government program in early-’90s Britain in which prisoners were shipped off to Eastern Europe. Gerry Brutecki (Til Schweiger), who sports the appropriate nickname Brute, is a nasty piece of work serving time in a U.K. prison. He’s sent to complete his sentence working at a dilapidated orphanage in rural Romania. In one of the more unlikely plot developments, the impoverished orphanage just happens to have on staff a rather sexy nurse, Mara (Polly Walker), and she and Brute soon kick off a passionate affair.
The place is run by the evil Sincal (Pete Postlethwaite), who has numerous scams going on the side, notably selling kids and medicine on the black market and embezzling charity funds. The home’s creepy cast of character is rounded out by Dr. Babits (John Hurt), a violin-playing surgeon who drinks heavily and performs almost unbelievably primitive operations on his patients. Brute turns out to be more softy than psychopathic criminal: He befriends a young gypsy girl with a terminal illness.
The tale unfolds in highly predictable fashion, its social points driven home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Schweiger does OK as Brute, giving the convict a certain rough charm, while Hurt is memorable if only because he looks so astonishingly craggy. Postlethwaite is supposed to be the ultimate villain, but his arch performance only irritates.
Music is overbearing telepic-style bombast, and virtually the entire pic is shot in dark interiors.