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|Index||56 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoy this film immensely, not only for the great acting of Brian Dennehey, William Hurt, and Lee Marvin, but for the fact that it is about police in some place other than New York or Los Angeles.
Hurt is very believable as a Russian cop who has to track down a murderer. Marvin is great as his adversary, the corrupt American businessman.
The primary complaint about this film is that it wasn't filmed in Russia. What people tend to forget is that it was made at the height of the cold war, and Soviet Premier Chernenko and the Politburo would not have opened Moscow to an American film crew, much less one that wanted to make a movie that depicts the various Russian agencies and beuraucrats as being as corrupt as Marvin.
In the end, they settled for Helsinki, Finland (which I guess is a fair trade-off, since Finland was technically a part of Russia for a few hundred years). Those who are familiar with Helsinki will probably mock this film (as my Finnish girlfriend did), but if you're not familiar, or willing to look past that shortcoming, then you will probably enjoy this movie quite a bit. They even went as far as to use Russian built "Ladas" (a brand of car) in the movie.
Today, this movie would have been made in Moscow or St. Petersburg, and would probably be better. But it's still good, well made overall, and worth watching.
It's winter and three corpses are found in Moscow's Gorky Park. They've
had their faces and finger tips carved off. Arkady Renko, an honest,
slightly obsessive Russian cop, is assigned to the case. He sets out to
identify the bodies by reconstructing their faces, and as he gets
closer he finds obstructions in his path. He finds a girl (Joanna
Pacula) who was friends of the trio, a wealthy and ruthless American
(Lee Marvin), an American cop (Brian Dennehy) out for blood, and more
than he probably wants to know about sable coats and the animals
they're made from. It becomes clear that corrupt higher-ups are
involved in something with greater stakes than solving a triple murder.
Hurt and Marvin do great jobs and are well matched.
This is a tight, very well constructed police procedural that is a little exotic, with the cops and functionaries being Russians. It's also a bit gloomy with a bitter sweet ending, but it still works as a very watchable film. A lot of the outdoor shots were filmed in Helsinki, and the movie takes place in the winter. The atmosphere looks cold and oppressive. The contrast is striking with the scenes set in a pre-revolutionary bath and an expensive restaurant, both reserved for the use of privileged Soviet officials.
The book, by Martin Cruz Smith, is even better. Apted also directed Enigma, and I like both movies a lot.
This is a very good movie with excellent performances by William Hurt and Lee Marvin.If I have a list of favorite movies of all the time, this will qualify as such. A very good adaptation of the book by Martin Cruz Smith. The portrayal of life in Moscow was fascinating,although the movie did not remain faithful to the book one hundred percent.Of course for resons of time script had to be changed a little.But none of the suspense was missing. The action was fast paced , it's one of those movies you don't want it to end.The music score complimented this intense detective story set in a frosty Moscow.I recommend this movie to all those who like original stories set in exotic places like this one in Russia.Arkady Renko is really the epitome of the non-conformistic citizen who cynically sneers at the rotten aparatus of the communist state while trying to solve this triple homicide.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For some reason I almost always watch this when it appears on cable TV.
The plot, twisted and complicated as it is, is a bit hard to follow at
times although it does make sense if you pay attention. But I think
it's the general milieu that is evoked by the location shooting,
wardrobe, makeup, and art direction that makes this interesting.
Boy, it looks cold! Everyone seems to dress in multilayered dark clothing and the men wear Pelzkappe, those big furry caps. When characters speak in outdoor scenes, their breath steams, though not always, so you can pretty much distinguish the scenes shot in the studio from those outside. Smith's novel was a bit more explicit about the material culture of Moscow than this movie is. Not only doesn't Chief Investigator Hurt's cheesy looking compact car have a heater but his shoes are made partly of cardboard.
Viewers usually don't pay much attention to makeup unless it draws attention to itself but the makeup department should get a medal for this one. First off, everyone is pale, as they should be in the midst of a Russian winter. The usual tendency is to pile on the suntan and make everyone glamorous. If you want to see an example of what I mean, watch "A Time to Love and a Time to Die", the scene in which John Gaving as a German soldier returns from months at the front during the winter and takes a bath naked so we can all admire his muscles and that tan he sports all over his body, suggesting not November in Kursk but a summer at the beach in Zihuatanejo. Then there is Joanna Pacula's makeup. She's pale too but she's given just enough eyeshadow or kohl or whatever it is, and her brows and lashes are emphasized just enough to make her look even more modelesque than she ordinarily would. If her eyebrows were any darker she'd look like Audrey Hepburn in "Sabrina." As it is, with her blue eyes framed by those orbital rings and her chestnut curls cascading around her cheeks, she looks slightly predatory, maybe like a sable. In some later movie she played a vampire, I think, and I can see why she was cast. William Hurt, likewise pale, even paler than usual come to think of it, is likewise nicely handled. His thin stringy hair has been blackened for some reason. I don't know why. There are plenty of blond Russians. Look at Alexander Gudonov.
Hurt's character is nobody's idea of a superhero. He's just an earnest cop who can be beaten up, as he is several times. After he has killed a traitor who happened to be a man of considerable importance in the Soviet bureaucracy, he next shows up on screen with a small shiner the color of a storm cloud on one of his eyelids and a slight scab on his lower lip. He's been clobbered by the KGB for the killing, you see. But we don't see it on screen, or hear it described. The bruises on his face tell the story. How tempting it must have been to make more of these possibilities. A Makeup Department could have gone ape here -- one cheek stuffed with cotton, bandages on his head, his face a welter of bruises. But this is tastefully done, giving you all the information you need in order to know what happened. Actually, there is one tan face in the crowd -- Lee Marvin's. But it suits him. And he's an American businessman who only visits the USSR from time to time so, between visits, for all we know he may be stretched out on the beach at Bora Bora. He even wears beige and dark browns that match his suntan, and he's the only one in the bunch who actually looks spiffy. William Hurt may be chewed out by his superior for not having shaved closely enough but that would never happen to Marvin, who looks like he just stepped out of five-hundred-dollar a head hair salon.
There isn't a line spoken by Marvin that doesn't ring with irony. Every pause, every facial twitch, every curious line reading, tells us that this guy is very clever and he knows it. Pacula's performance is that of a model who's taken acting lessons. William Hurt, a fine actor, does some strange things here. He LOOKS the part of the determined militia detective, relatively quiet, rarely smiling, seldom physical -- but he drapes his speech in British locutions: "yore" for "your", "bean" for "been," and so on. We can only guess why. The two Americans (Dennehy and Marvin) speak frank American. The actors playing Russians are all from the UK except Pacula, who is Polish and kept help her Slavic accent. So by adopting a Brit accent Hurt places himself among the "Russians." Dennehy, by the way, is at the top of his form. Marvin is absolutely magnetic, as is Ian Bannon, whose readings have the same ironic pitches and stress as Marvin's. You never believe a word he says.
The film ends on a noble note. Pacula gets to go to America which, as everyone knows, is rich, democratically pure, and free of corruption. Hurt stays behind to save her from being followed and killed by KGB. The novel had a different ending. The hero follows the girl to New York City. They sit down to watch television. The program is one they have never seen before. It's title is, "The Price is Right." ("Come on DOWN!") The hero says something like, "THIS is what it's all about? Money?" And gets up and goes back to Russia leaving the girl flat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching this with a friend of mine, he commented "I was just saying
the other day, even the 'B' movies from the 70s are better than the
best movies today." Even allowing for the fact that this came out in
1983, that's an excellent point.
They rarely make movies like this anymore. It's an exciting spy thriller, but it's realistic, and it's got some brains behind it as well. There are no idiotic "Air Force One" acrobatics, no gigantic explosions (with a character jumping towards the camera in the foreground) and no snappy catch-phrases. Just a good mystery and a boatload of great performances.
One thing that's interesting about this film is that in the end, the mystery turns out to be about commerce, not politics, which is unusual for this sort of cold-war Soviet thriller.
Another exceptional feature is the great script by the legendary Dennis Potter. This sort of thing makes me wish he had done more movie scripts for hire. While it's certainly not a personal project like Pennies for Heaven or The Singing Detective, Potter still turns in a top-notch script, filled with typically Potterian touches (like frequent references to losing your skin, and the smart, snappy, hilarious dialogue in general).
Another Potter touch (also used in Christabel) is the way all the characters (except the Americans) use British accents. This is a little disconcerting at first, but once you're used to it, it works really well. First, an actor playing a Russian and speaking English with a British accent is hardly any more "unrealistic" than an actor speaking English with a Russian accent. More importantly, the use of British accents (as in Christabel) allows Potter and the actors to indicate the characters' relative social status, by the type of accent they have. Intellectually, it doesn't make any sense to have the Soviet administrators talk in an upper class British accent, and the regular cops speak with a Cockney accent, but artistically, it induces an immediate emotional response in the viewer that makes a real difference between the two characters instead of just presenting us with two indistinguishable "Russian cops".
All in all, this is an under-appreciated thriller that holds up extremely well, over twenty years later.
Though the story does drag a bit in the telling, Gorky Park is a good
look at what turned out to be the birth of post Soviet Union Russia.
First and foremost Gorky Park is a murder mystery, despite the politics. That's what William Hurt is all about, he's for want of an American term, a homicide cop with the Moscow PD. He's been handed a nasty triple homicide, three young people, two men and a woman whose faces and finger prints were mutilated making identification a challenge.
Of course this was done for a reason and soon Hurt finds himself up to his neck in a turf struggle with the Soviet KGB. There's an American businessman played by Lee Marvin who's in the mix as well as Russian pathologist Ian Bannen and an American homicide cop Brian Dennehy. Hurt also gets involved romantically with Soviet dissident Joanna Pacula and it turns out she's the key to the whole case.
The film was shot in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Glasgow all cold climate cities that serve very well as location stand ins for Moscow. Best in the film is Lee Marvin who went back to playing bad guys as he did in his early years for this one.
In the turf struggle depicted between the Moscow Police and the KGB you see a whole lot of issues talked about and you can see why the Soviet Union fell apart as it did. Too bad the story couldn't have been better told in a tighter screenplay.
I didn't have high expectations, but was pleasantly surprised. It's hard
write anything about this type of film without spoiling, but what I can
without telling too much about the plot is, that the film is a non-cliché
film, which still is full of clichés (love scene being the biggest).
locations are good, though "Moscow" (Helsinki) is a bit too similar to
The movie may be a bit too long for the American taste, but for more European film taste the length was just perfect. The end was so complicated, that even Agatha Christie would have been proud. The final solution between the main characters was completely different from what I expected, and definitely was that cherry for the cake.
A very unique, fast moving and entertaining story about political and
criminal intrigue in Cold War (real cold, just watch the movie!)
Russia. The grisly murder of three young people sends our protagonist,
Inspector Arkady Renko (W. Hurt), on a complex, intertwining mission to
find out who and/or what was behind this dastardly crime. As the crime
facts unfold, potential suspects begin to surface in the mind of the
inspector, suspects that may include American collusion with KGB
officials. Maybe not entirely novel on the surface, but the sequences
of events and the characterizations set forth are anything but
Perhaps the sequences of the facial reconstruction of the 3 victims "de-skinned" facial bones and the subsequent deductions provide the impetus for an unusual plot setting. The involvement of the American cop (B. Dennehy), the Siberian beauty and romantic interest (J. Pacula) who wants out of her homeland, the rich American (L. Marvin), the inspector's police buddies, to name a few, provide more than mere tangential plot fodder: the sum of their actions coalesces in the inspector's mind and takes him closer yet to what could be a very inconvenient truth. All this is done cinematically with good pace and little wasted motion.
It is noteworthy that most of the so-called Russians are British Isles actors who maintain their native brogue while donning the usual Kossack-like apparel! Yet their histrionic adeptness suffers not and their characterizations come off well. After all, we've seen this type of casting done before, but I don't think we could pull this off in modern Russia. Instead of filming in Finland with British actors, we would be filming in Moscow or St. Pete with Russian actors.
Any additional reviewing will get me into the "spoiler" category, so I'll just sign off by saying see the movie. To me, it is William Hurt's best!
It has been a long time since I last viewed this film, but it was a
welcome revisit, and a chance to see a great performance by William
Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, A History of Violence, The
Proposition). After about a dozen of his films, I never tire of
watching him act.
The cast also included Lee Marvin in a very good performance, and the ever-lovable Brian Dennehy. This was also the American debut of Joanna Pacula, who got a Golden Globe nomination for her outstanding performance. And, we also got to see her golden globes in a skintastic moment, right before she gets Hurt! This was her finest film in a career spanning 30 years.
Do not miss this fine police procedural with a surprise ending. The motive is brilliant.
This film has stood the test of time and repeat viewings for me. Have watched about 10 times over the past 20 years and each time I am totally engrossed. Excellent crime-mystery drama. The dialog in this movie is as good as any I know. Scenery and the settings make you feel like you are in Russia during winter: bleak and frigid. Performances by Hurt, Marvin, Dennehey, and Bannen are all solid if not outstanding. Some may be put off by English and Americans performers posing as Russians, but don't let the lack of dialect authenticity get in your way of enjoying this gem. For comparison I would rank it with LA Confidential within its genre.
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