Review: ‘Caucasian Roulette’

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.

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.

Caucasian Roulette

Russia

Production

A Stella Studios/Krug Studio production. (International sales: Stella, Moscow.) Produced by Fyodor Popov, Aleksandr Kotelevsky. Directed by Fyodor Popov. Screenplay, Viktor Merezhko, Alla Surina.

Crew

Camera (color), Lomer Akhvlediani; editor, Natalya Kucherenko; music, Andrei Golovin; art directors, Sergei Filenko, Olga Survillo. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West), July 6, 2003. Running Time: 83 min.

With

Nina Usatova, Tatyana Mesherkina, Anatoly Goryachev, Sergei Garmash.
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