Review: ‘Home — A Russian Family’

Four generations of the dysfunctional Shamanov family gather at their wooden manse in the middle of the Don River steppe to celebrate the 100th birthday of their near-paralyzed patriarch in "Home -- A Russian Family," an over-the-top soap opera-cum-actioner from helmer Oleg Pogodin.

Four generations of the dysfunctional Shamanov family gather at their wooden manse in the middle of the Don River steppe to celebrate the 100th birthday of their near-paralyzed patriarch in “Home — A Russian Family,” an over-the-top soap opera-cum-actioner from helmer Oleg Pogodin. Delirious in tone, and derivative in look and style — think Terrence Malick meets Sam Peckinpah, combined with the gunplay of John Woo’s Hong Kong pics and the final shootout from “Bonnie and Clyde” — this big-budget family epic flopped domestically, but could be fun for midnight slots at offshore fests.

Improbably, prodigal son Viktor (Lee Marvin lookalike Sergey Garmash), a mob kingpin on the run with several carloads of heavily armed assassins on his trail, turns out to be the most likable Shamanov. Although it has been 25 years since he last saw his parents (Bogdan Stupka and Larisa Malevannaya), his ill-gotten gains have financed the family home and schooling for his sisters Tamara (Evgeniia Dmietrieva), who arrives from Moscow sporting expensive brands, and Natalia (Yekaterina Rednikova), a willful nymphomaniac given to running naked through the golden wheatfields at dawn to have sex with local peasants.

Viktor also has a passel of brothers: cringing Dmitrii (Igor Savochkin), who hides a guilty secret; tough guy Pasha (Vladimir Epifantsev); and sneering Andrei (Ivan Dobronravov). Brothers-in-law include Natalia’s impotent intellectual husband, Igor (Gleb Podgorodinsky), and Tamara’s rich Jewish beau, Roitman (Aleksandr Nazarov), the unfortunate butt of anti-Semitic jokes and sentiments.

As the Shamanov women labor in the kitchen, and the menfolk meet mano a mano, the film also follows the offsite preparations of those who have it in for Viktor. On one side, there are the ultra-professional, armed-to-the-teeth, expensively clad hired killers, and on the other is Viktor’s old flame Svetka (Angela Koltzova), a she-wolf with a grudge.

The pic’s first 90 or so minutes mostly given over to the hothouse atmosphere within the Shamanov family home and the clan’s complex history; the fearsome patriarch whose centenary they are celebrating was notorious for shooting local kulaks, or rich peasants — a fact that suggests Viktor is just a chip off the old block. Action fans may feel put out at being clobbered with so much Russian soul, but for those who hang in there, the protracted shootout at the pic’s end provides an elaborately choreographed spectacle, packed with slo-mo violence.

Elsewhere, Pogodin modulates the pic’s intensity with black comedy, much of it involving the three goons who accompanied Viktor on his escape from Moscow and the two luckless Shamanov sons-in-law. There are occasional chucklesome lines of barbed dialogue (for instance, Viktor is continually referred to as a busy businessman), and the two twists following the bullet-ballet finale really up the ante for perverse humor.

The large, all-pro cast plays in tune with the helmer’s extravagant intentions. On the tech side, the budget shows up onscreen with zooming crane shots, sharp special effects and an impressive arsenal of weaponry.

Home -- A Russian Family



A Central Partnership, CTB production. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Sergey Selianov. Directed, written by Oleg Pogodin.


Camera (color, widescreen, DV), Antoine Vivas-Denisov; editor, Alexander Amirov; music, Eduard Artemiev; production designer, Sergey Agin; sound (Dolby Digital). Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (noncompeting), July 6, 2012. Running time: 109 MIN.


Sergey Garmash, Bogdan Stupka, Vladimir Epifantsev, Yekaterina Rednikova, Larisa Malevannaya, Igor Savochkin, Evgeniia Dmietrieva, Ivan Dobronravov, Gleb Podgorodinsky, Aleksandr Nazarov, Angela Koltzova.

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