More technically accomplished than emotionally engaging, “Love” joins a niche occupied by films as varied as “Marathon Man” and “Dirty Pretty Things” — stories in which foreign conflicts resurface in big, disinterested cities. Director Vladan Nikolic’s strategy of having ex-Balkan warriors recreate their national tragedies in microcosm is intriguing, as is the fresh face he puts on Manhattan, but the coldness of his delivery may put off some auds. Still, the action is compelling, the film good looking, the acting first rate and the circumstances — people from neglected nations in an alienating if not hostile urban landscape — is moving. Film should do well at festivals and in major cities.
Nikolic’s non-linear — or multi-linear — approach to storytelling may evoke comparisons to “Pulp Fiction” or “Rashomon,” but he lacks the humor of the former and the subjective realities of the latter.
As he rolls out the story of Vanya (Sergej Trifunovic) — an ex-Yugoslav special forces soldier blackmailed into becoming an American hit man — the overlapping action doesn’t alter any version of what happens, only the perspective. For example, during a hit in a hotel, the audience gets electrifying, alternating sequences of action, but the killers and the victims are always the same.
Accepting what he believes to be his last contract killing, Vanya is reunited with his ex-wife, Anna (Geno Lechner), a German member of Doctors Without Borders who he met in Bosnia. Although Vanya still loves Anna, Anna is involved with Dirk (Peter Gevisser), a New York City cop and would-be writer.
Meanwhile, villainy from the past haunts the present day, and, as the characters’ various storylines intersect and interweave, a stark portrait of desperate people in desperate situations emerges.
“Love” has its soap-opera elements, although the romantic subtext never intrudes on, nor trivializes, the political side of the story. What one wants from “Love” are a few more trips to the Kleenex box, but perhaps that is asking too much of a film so structurally ambitious.