A wealthy Russian mobster has a hard time telling his friends from his enemies in “The Quickie,” a smooth, California-set suspenser peopled with familiar yet untrust-worthy archetypes that unfolds over two long, eventful days. Pic opened July 25 in France to encouraging press and may drum up some rubles at Stateside hardtops if reviewers warm to a venture with next to no actual violence, set in a climate of hovering menace. In the central role, Vladimir Mashkov took best actor nod at the recent Moscow fest.
Voiceover from Michael (Dean Stockwell) establishes that it’s only been two weeks since his generous friend Oleg (Mashkov) bought the snazzy hillside spread in Malibu where almost the entire movie tran-spires. It’s New Year’s Eve and the charming Oleg is throwing an exclusive, black-tie party to announce that he’s decided to retire and give the business to his American half-brother, Alex (Henry Thomas). Alex arrives with his and Oleg’s mom, Anna (Lesley Ann Warren), a stunning ex-ballerina who was only 14 when she had Oleg and only a few years older when she abandoned him and his father in the Soviet Union.
Michael, who’s in a wheelchair and has six months to live, was Anna’s third husband but now is married to the not-always-faithful Jane (Brenda Bakke). Anna is attending with Miguel (Jsu Garcia), a Peruvian freedom fighter much younger than herself. (This makes him husband No. 5.) Although Anna has gone through millions of Oleg’s ill-gotten dollars, she acts outraged at the thought of the musically inclined Alex taking over Oleg’s dealings.
As the party gets under way, Oleg has reason to believe somebody is out to get him. There are threatening phone calls in Russian, the ominous delivery of a giant lawn statue of the Virgin — followed by a message to “Go pray” — and an ambient sense of dread. The appearance of cockroaches in the kitchen the morning after prompts the arrival of exterminator Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Oleg — who has money galore but no one to love or trust — offers Lisa extra cash for “a quickie.”
There’s nothing especially new here — except, perhaps, the use of Russian rather than Italian mobster characters. However, the mood of incipient melancholy is nicely sustained and thesps seem to be having a blast, particularly the charismatic Mashkov as the paranoid Ruskie who’s consis-tently fun to watch.
Leigh is a low-key treat as she re-sponds to the lunacy and barely contained violence around her. Warren and Bakke are pleasantly over-the-top as middle-aged women with ultra-lusty appetites.
Co-scripting with his wife, Bodrov (“Prisoner of the Mountains”) gets good results on a modest budget. (Story was inspired by a real-life acquaintance whose high life flourished, then ran aground in America.) House is convincingly dressed and nighttime lensing is particularly evocative. The unpredictable score — which ranges from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to the eerie falsetto warblings of the Tiger Lillies — is a nice fit.