The season’s mega-grossing Turkish melodrama, “Cholera Street” is a sprawling , overlong but basically enjoyable Greek tragedy set in an Istanbul slum. With two of the country’s most popular stars in the leading roles, and acting to match its shamelessly over-the-top scripting, pic’s domestic success (heading toward 1 million admissions) is no surprise. Though much of pic is good exotic fun, it’s far too corny to be taken seriously outside Mideastern and Mediterranean markets, where too much is never enough. Some Med fests may pick it up as a lark.
Residents of the rough-and-tumble Cholera Street, in the heart of old Istanbul, are awed by the arrival of high-class call girl Tina (Mujde Ar). With her chauffeured car and buxom allure, she steals the heart of a barber’s (Savas Dincel) lionhearted but weak-willed son, Salih (Okan Bayulgen).
Tina and Salih are soon at odds with a swaggering young gang lord, who murders the neighborhood’s beloved crime boss Sado (Burak Sergen). While the people erect a bust in Sado’s honor, the parvenu opens a fancy gambling joint and takes over. Challenging him, Salih (who has become Tina’s lover and defender) gets in over his head. Blood flows through the streets in the most melodramatic ending possible.
On his third feature, young helmer Mustafa Altioklar is an impetuously enthusiastic lenser, and his no-holds-barred storytelling, peppered with explosions, knifings, drugs and all kinds of surprising sex, is as addictive as a cheap novel. The intense, good-looking Bayulgen goes straight for the jugular as Salih, the hotheaded wannabe people’s hero, who inherits the knife of his hero Sado but can’t decide how to use it. Statuesque Ar, looking very sure of her charm, makes no effort to go beyond the stereotype of the idealized prostitute. Ertunc Senkay’s cinematography has an appropriately garish look.