Tolla is an unemployed translator whose wife is leaving him. Despondent and weak, he submits to the suggestion of an acquantance to have a contract placed on the man that his wife is seeing. Instead, however, he arranges for the hit to be placed on himself. Before the contract is executed, he develops a relationship with a prostitute, and then changes his mind. In order to survive he takes the obvious course of action, which turns out to have possibly been unnecessary, and then he must deal with the guilt. Written by
"A Friend of the Deceased" starts as an old tale about a despondent man who takes out a contract on his own life and then renegs. The film is a plodding work with little going for it save the curious plot and interesting twists on the hacked storyline. There's plenty of behind the Iron Curtain-rod contempo symbolism; everyone drinks without regard for time of day; beggars everywhere; somber atmospherics; American money in a Ukraine wallet; and a kind of woebegone milieu not to mention one character's personal commentary about the state of the country. A sober and understated work with an anticlimactic conclusion, "A Friend..." does manage some poignancy and will be of most interest to foreign film buffs, especially those into Russian flicks. (C+)
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