(Dutch, English dialogue)
Dutch director Robert Jan Westdijk, whose inventive, video-shot 1995 debut, “Little Sister,” traveled widely, makes a sure-footed transition to a more substantial budget with his sophomore feature, “Siberia.” Centering on two charming rogues who seduce and rob female tourists in Amsterdam and the cool Russian beauty who sabotages their operation, this punchy drama perhaps relies a little heavily on visual and editing tricks to create atmosphere. But the volatile dynamic among the main trio and the plot’s unexpected turns make it more than robust enough to secure some sales in Euro territories.
Taking full advantage of their location in a major European tourist mecca known for its libertarian attitude toward sex and drug-taking, young roommates Hugo (Hugo Metsers) and Goof (Roeland Fernhout) have made a thriving cottage industry out of befriending backpackers, taking them to bed and lifting their cash and valuables. They tear the i.d. page from each girl’s passport as a souvenir.
Romantic Goof’s tendency to become emotionally involved causes conflicts with the more coldly pragmatic Hugo, but the scam runs like clockwork until they encounter smooth operator Lara (Vlatka Simac). While Hugo is divesting an American tourist (Nicole Eggert) of her cash, Goof invites the world-weary Siberian babe to stay at their apartment, blowing their cover and angering Hugo.
Westdijk and co-scripter Jos Driessen negotiate the shifting allegiances, power plays and betrayals with the same skill they brought to their previous collaboration on “Little Sister.” The drama races through an increasingly complicated series of twists as Lara uses her knowledge to manipulate her hosts, Hugo remains loyal only to himself and good-guy Goof ultimately proves to be less naive than he appears.
While the director overuses B&W and video inserts as well as aggressive editing to give the film a hip, contemporary edge, these devices and d.p. Bert Pot’s spry shooting style effectively contribute to its depiction of Amsterdam as a bustling, cosmopolitan center. The driving techno score by Dutch band Junkie XL also adds to the drama’s gritty texture. Working confidently in a mix of English and Dutch, the cast has plenty of chemistry, attitude and energy, with Fernhout especially good as the story’s most sympathetic, ethical character. Both male leads also appeared in “Little Sister.”