A sadistic, impotent police captain who enjoys abusing his power crosses paths with a communist, atheist university professor with a crisis of faith in "Cargo 200." Disturbing, gleefully black comedy from former international arthouse name Alexei Balabanov ("Of Freaks and Men") doesn't capture the popular mood of Russia the way "War" and his "Brother" films did, though it definitely has something to say about the country. Following its limited domestic release this summer, pic could find narrow ancillary opportunities offshore.

A sadistic, impotent police captain who enjoys abusing his power crosses paths with a communist, atheist university professor with a crisis of faith in “Cargo 200.” Disturbing, gleefully black comedy from former international arthouse name Alexei Balabanov (“Of Freaks and Men”) doesn’t capture the popular mood of Russia the way “War” and his “Brother” films did, though it definitely has something to say about the country. Following its limited domestic release this summer, pic could find narrow ancillary opportunities offshore.

Set in 1984, before Perestroika, main action is divided between Leninisk, a hideous industrial town where Capt. Zhurov (Alexei Poluyan) lives with his drunk-to-the-point-of-oblivion mother (Valentina Andryukova) and an isolated shack where Alexei (Alexei Serebryakov) and his wife Tonya (Natalya Akimova) sell grain alcohol. The look of the shack and some of the later action, seem to reference “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

When academic Artem (Leonid Gromov) sets out to visit his mother, who also lives in Leninisk, his car breaks down near Alexei’s shack. Their subsequent conversation about communism, atheism and belief constitutes one of pic’s lighter moments.

Later that night, restless youth Valera (Leonid Bicevin) comes to buy booze. He’s dragged along Angelika (Agniya Kuznetsova), daughter of a local communist chief.

The creepily lurking Zhurov wants Angelika for himself and commits several crimes before hauling her to his place and handcuffing her to the bed. It’s the site for various over-the-topscenes, including one where Zhurov dumps the corpse of Angelika’s fiance, an Afghan war hero, on the bed beside her and watches while she’s raped.

Well-chosen Russian songs in a variety of genres counterpoint the action; however, the lyrics weren’t translated on print caught at Venice fest, leaving non-native speakers somewhat lost.

Perfs are strong all around, with Poluyan making the most of his resemblance to Putin. Tech credits are pro, with lenser Alexander Simonov’s grimy industrial landscapes particularly memorable.

Title comes from code phrase for dead soldiers shipped home from Afghanistan

Cargo 200

Russia

Production

A Nashe Kino (in Commonwealth of Independent States) release of a CTB Film Co. production. (International sales: Intercinema, Moscow.) Produced by Sergei Selyanov. Executive producer, Maxim Ukhanov. Directed, written by Alexei Balabanov.

Crew

Camera (color), Alexander Simonov; editor, Tatjana Kuzmyceva, art director, Pavel Parchomenko; costume designer, Nadezda Vasileva; sound (Dolby Digital), Michail Nikolaev. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Aug. 29, 2007. (Also in Telluride Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Alexei Serebryakov, Leonid Gromov, Yuri Stepanov, Agniya Kuznetsova, Alexei Poluyan, Natalya Akimova, Valentina Andryukova, Leonid Bicevin.
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