×

Toronto Film Review: ‘Break Loose’

Latest from director of Russian's 2010 Oscar submission, 'The Edge,' emphasizes style over substance.

With:

Alexey Mantsigyn, Artur Smolyaninov, Alexander Novyn, Artem Bystrov, Pavel Vorontsov, Vilma Kutavichute. (Russian dialogue)

Grungy, witty and savage, the Russian crime thrillerBreak Loose” entertains despite its ludicrously repetitive action and cliched story of the impossible love between a special forces cop and a gangster’s moll. Set in the final days of 1999 (and Boris Yeltsin), the film makes meager use of political subtext, but it doesn’t much matter given director Alexey Uchitel’s infectious love of borderline-goofy fight scenes, many of which are brilliantly choreographed. Though commercial prospects outside Russia appear limited, plenty of fests will forge ties with “Break Loose,” Uchitel’s first feature since “The Edge,” Russia’s Oscar entry from 2010.

To the extent that the film is a comedy, its running gag is the insatiable appetite for street violence among four old army buddies who now work for OMON, an elite police squad charged with curbing local protests and breaking up the scuffles of low-level thugs. Not content with the head-bashings they administer in their day jobs, fresh-faced Ger (Alexey Mantsigyn) and his pals — Lykov (Alexander Novyn), Shorokh (Pavel Vorontsov), and Grekh (Artem Bystrov) — favor looking for fights after hours as well. An early scene has the friends pummelling goons in the lobby of a bustling nightclub.

It’s at the club, owned by mob boss Boots (Artur Smolyaninov), where Ger first lays eyes on gorgeous Aglaya (Vilma Kutavichute), who’s dancing onstage. Hardly subtle, Uchitel tracks the camera slowly toward the gape-mouthed Ger to establish that he’s instantly smitten. Learning that his crush is Boots’ main squeeze doesn’t deter Ger in his efforts to bed Aglaya; if anything, it seems to turn him on even more. Climbing up a pole to a third-floor window to peep on Aglaya, Ger eventually succeeds in his lascivious aim, which naturally escalates the war between Boots’ crew and Ger’s.

Popular on Variety

Based on Zahkhar Prilepin’s novel “The Eight,” “Break Loose” has a curiously smeared, sludgy look that somehow adds to its appeal as a scrappy film noir. Countless fight scenes among hilariously macho, vaguely distinguishable tough guys are orchestrated with great verve by Uchitel and stunt coordinator Oleg Korytin. Periodic dream sequences of Kutavichute’s naked Aglaya bouncing in orgasmic bliss — from Ger’s p.o.v., of course — are representative of Uchitel’s preference for style over substance. Accordingly, thesping here seems nothing special.

Toronto Film Review: 'Break Loose'

Reviewed at Toronto International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), September 8, 2013. Running time: 82 MIN. Original title: "Vosmerka"

Production:

(Russia) A Rock Films production, with support of Russian Cinema Fund. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Alexey Uchitel. Executive producers, Elena Bystrova, Vladislav Mayevsky. Co-producers, Kira Saksaganskaya, Catherine Mtsitouridze.

Crew:

Directed by Alexey Uchitel. Screenplay, Alexander Mindadze, based on the novel “The Eight” by Zahkhar Prilepin. Camera (color), Yury Klimenko, Alexander Demyanenko; editors, Yelena Andreyeva, Gleb Nikulsky, Ekaterina Shahunova; production designer, Andrey Vasin; costume designers, Galina Deyeva, Irina Grajdankina; set decorator, Sergey Anisimov; stunt coordinator, Oleg Korytin; sound (Dolby Digital), Vladimir Ozemkov; supervising sound editors, Valentina Mordashova, Ludmila Danilova, Anastasia Pasenchuk; re-recording mixers, Dmitry Grigoryev, Konstantin Zalessky; assistant director, Philipp Yuryev; casting, Kristina Uchuvatkina, Svetlana Trusova, Natalya Titova.

With:

Alexey Mantsigyn, Artur Smolyaninov, Alexander Novyn, Artem Bystrov, Pavel Vorontsov, Vilma Kutavichute. (Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • the jesus rolls

    Émilie Simon Contributes Flamenco/Gypsy Vibe to John Turturro's ‘The Jesus Rolls’

    For French musician Émilie Simon, the flamenco-meets-gypsy vibe writer-director John Turturro was seeking for the soundtrack to his movie “The Jesus Rolls” turned out to be in her musical and genetical DNA. “This music originally comes from where I grew up in the south of France,” says the 41-year-old electronic musician, who has released five [...]

  • My Hero Academia Heroes Rising

    'My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising' ADR Director on Adapting the Anime for a U.S. Audience

    “My Hero Academia” has officially Detroit Smashed into North American theaters. Sony Pictures Television’s Funimation released “Heroes Rising” in the U.S. on Wednesday, grossing $2.5 million on its opening day. Theaters are showing the film, a standalone entry in the popular superhero anime based on the manga, with options for either subtitles or with an [...]

  • Lost in America

    'Lost in America': Film Review

    You might feel a sense of shame watching Rotimi Rainwater’s “Lost in America,” an expansive documentary look at the issue of youth homelessness in a country where the problem seems unthinkable, and its victims are so often invisible. You are likely to ask yourself how many times you have passed by a homeless child and [...]

  • Bell Book and Candle

    'Bell, Book & Candle' Remake in the Works -- Without Harvey Weinstein

    A remake of the Jimmy Stewart-Kim Novak romantic comedy “Bell, Book & Candle” is in the works with Jay Weston and Sara Risher producing. Weston, who has producing credits on “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Invisible Child,” originally optioned the remake rights from the estate of original author John van Druten, then collaborated with Harvey [...]

  • Irradiated

    'Irradiated': Film Review

    Early in “Irradiated,” a powerful but troublesome documentary howl of despair from Cambodian director Rithy Panh, the narration describes an act that must be familiar to anyone similarly transfixed by history. Referring to the black and white archival war footage that marches in triplicate across a screen that’s divided into three panels, the narrator speaks [...]

  • Black Panther

    What's Coming to Disney Plus in March 2020

    Disney Plus will continue to expand its library next month, adding older films as well as new television shows, releasing as both weekly episodes and entire seasons. After streaming on Netflix for over a year, Marvel’s “Black Panther” is making its way to Disney Plus, leaving just “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content