Set almost entirely on a train, “Caucasian Roulette” is a punchy three-hander that examines how the war in Chechnya has turned people on both sides into bloodthirsty avengers and opportunists. Territories could consider optioning pic’s remake rights, as with a little reworking it could be set in any civil war-torn country. Film has already pulled into a few fest stations, but it’s a bit rough around the edges and probably too stagy for theatrical release outside Central Europe.
Plot centers on an ethical debate between guilt-ridden, Russian assassin Anna (Michelle Pfeiffer look-alike Tatyana Mesherkina), who’s gone over to the Chechen rebels, and Maria (august thesp Nina Usatova, from “My Friend, Ivan Lapshin”), the mother of a Federation soldier captured by the Chechens. Maria hopes to kidnap Anna’s own son for a prisoner exchange. Riding the rails with them is weasly Kolya (Anatoly Goryachev), a shifty conductor with a smuggling racket on the side. With the ongoing threat of Anna’s capture or a gun going off at any moment, suspense is ably sustained by producer-turned-helmer Popov, here helming his first feature. However, it’s the well-harmonized perfs that ultimately carry the pic.