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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Most authentic portrayal of (New) Russians by any American film

9/10
Author: anarmyofone from United States
14 January 2005

From the biznessmen to the government officials, even the hotel lounge's Elvis impersonator, the dialogue, spoken language, actors, character portrayals and cultural depictions are so authentically Russian, it's frightening. And hilarious. Which makes it all the more difficult to believe this a product of American cinema, which seems to prefer perpetuating tired and/or exaggerated Russian stereotypes (whether due to ignorance or apathy is still open to debate). Anthropologically speaking, this film's a bull's-eye; historically, who knows? High production values (including stock footage from the actual campaign -- see Yeltsin dance!), quality casting and genuine humor make for good times. More so if you know Russia(n), less so, perhaps, if you don't. I'm recommending it to friends, and I'd watch it again. Na zdoroviye.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

BRILLIANT SATIRE

10/10
Author: FilmDome from Miami, Fl.
3 April 2003

Caught "Spinning Boris" at a preview screening -- and... WOW... This is the best, funniest, sharpest, and meanest movie I've seen in a long time... well, since "Wag the Dog". It also brings to mind "Network" and "Dr. Strangelove" - yes, it's THAT good. The cast is top-notch -- Goldblum, LaPaglia, Shrieber, as three American political consultants in Russia -- create amazing chemistry. Three musketeers, three stooges, three blind mice, three charismatic, brilliant, but incredibly self-involved and self-serving individuals. The script is pure perfection -- witty and clever beyond belief, suspenseful, complex and very, very dark. The director is Roger Spottiswoode (yes, Bond... James Bond) -- here working in a completely different genre... and succeeding on all levels. The film is a 10, to be sure, but it's more than that. A not-to-be-missed movie event. (I understand it was produced by Showtime and will premier on cable. Here's to hoping they promote the hell out of it.) Can't wait to see it again.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Vodka and Voting, Through American Eyes

Author: Marc David Miller (MDM@DiscoveringRussia.com) from New York, USA
12 March 2004

Released in the US at the time of another Russian Presidential election, "Spinning Boris", is a humorous, fact-based dramatization of the 1996 Russian Presidential election, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (who also directed the Bond film, "Tomorrow Never Dies," and the bio-pic "Noriega: God's Favorite").

The first post-Soviet election in Russia pitted Boris Yeltsin, a man once considered a hero but now, after five years of attempted coups, hyperinflation, and war in Chechnya, has lower approval ratings than Stalin, against political opponents ranging from kooky (the xenophobic Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who wants to retake Alaska), to Communist (Gennady Zyuganov, who vows to restore the Soviet Union). In Yeltsin's view (and that of some powerful forces on both sides of the Atlantic) the future of Russia is at stake: do people want to live with the challenges and opportunities of free choice, or fall back to the failed Communist system (along with newly wealthy oligarchs losing their power).

How can a candidate be "guaranteed" victory in a democracy? Hire the best political advisors money can buy, in this case George Gorton (Jeff Goldblum), Dick Dresner (Anthony LaPaglia), and Joe Shumate (Liev Schreiber, playing a more open operative than in his last Russian adventure, "The Sum of All Fears," and proving himself a master in the political movies genre).

The three American political consultants (one of whom, Gorton, recently led Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful gubernatorial campaign) are masters at showing how politics can be manipulated, or fine tuned. "Spinning Boris" shows the idealism and naivete of Russia's fledging democracy in 1996, primarily through the eyes of his daughter, Tatiana Dyachenko (played by the sensuously dignified Svetlana Efremova, known to political drama junkies through an appearance as a Russian journalist in "The West Wing").

The main difference between history and the plot of this film is that the script overplays the political naivete of Russians far too much. After all, it was Yeltsin's main opponent, the Communist Zyuganov, who said in 1995, "You should understand that a clever propaganda worker and a skilled politician will never talk in the same language with different audiences." If the Soviet era proved anything, it is that Russians are masters at telling an audience what it wants to hear. The movie does prove that Americans are good at reviving a stale product, in this case a Presidential candidate, Yeltsin, who offers a clear (and clearly superior) alternative to his opponents, men who reach back into the "ash heap of history" for their political platform.

"Spinning Boris" perpetuates some negative stereotypes about Russia. For instance: the President Hotel is not 5-Star quality; people did not walk around with machine guns in 1996; the SOVIET national anthem was not in use during the Yeltsin era; and why did the Americans sing the "Internationale," the song of world Communism, as they leave Moscow? There are, however, some wonderful street scenes throughout the entire movie, and the cinematography manages to capture some of the exoticness and beauty of Moscow, the world's most unique city (although most of the interior shots were filmed in Toronto).

It is great to have a dramatization of what is for Americans an obscure political event, but one that had far-reaching repercussions. Movies are often the only way that a historic event is remembered; by their nature a political drama will be abridged and truncated (this is true of documentaries as well). Hopefully people watching this movie won't believe that today's Russia is as close to the brink of collapse as it is depicted here. Like "Primary Colors," the movie (and novel) which gave great understanding into the 1992 Clinton campaign, "Spinning Boris" gives humorous insight into the Russian political scene during its early democratic years.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Strange truth as fiction

Author: Melissa Smith (mtsmith.02@ysu.edu) from Youngstown, OH
16 October 2004

I was watching the election returns in my friends' apartment in St. Petersburg on June 16, 1996, and thus had seen the documentary footage in this film first-hand. Watching "Spinning Boris" on DVD, I did not suspect that it was based on reality rather than conjecture until I watched the interviews with the political consultants on whom it is based. It is a tribute to the writers that the film came off as incredible fiction. Very enjoyable. The dialogue is very clever among the Americans (in the good old "buddy movie" tradition) , and I was impressed at the texture of the Russian setting, all the while not believing the story line. (I recall less dire numbers in the polls, although my Russian friends were very worried about a possible return to Communism).

Apparently, though, I found more humor in the film's situations than I really should have, considering it was based on fact. I regret that this film did not get broader press coverage, for it is as relevant to the current situation in American politics as to the Russian events it portrays.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

not based on the true events

3/10
Author: vlados2002 from Russian Federation
3 March 2008

When you read the comment on this film, that it's smart and funny political comedy based on true events - the only true word here is that it's a comedy. If you're told it's insider movie about Russian politics - it's not. There's probably only 2% in the movie from what really happened in Russia during that election-campaign. In reality of the 1996 it was thousand times more interesting to follow the situation and that was a real funky election-campaign. Well, there were PR-advisers from the US working in the Yeltsin's staff, but their role was just minimal. The whole campaign was totally different from what is shown in the movie, it would be much funnier showing all the president's people riding across the country with paper boxes full of cash, and the celebrities giving the shows to support Yeltsin all over the place - at least that would be true. I give it three only because of the respect to Jeff Goldblum, Antony LaPagglia, and Liev Schreiber. And about the machine guns on the streets of Moscow. I was living in the place that had the highest amount of hard crime in Russia in the middle of 90-s and never seen a man with the gun on the street.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Watch out Elvis, and watch out for that mine-shaft gap!

9/10
Author: janet-55 from United Kingdom
17 January 2006

I resisted seeing this movie for some time. Not sure why - probably because the title put me off. However it is one of the funniest, sharpest movies I have seen in many a year and I have to agree with "Filmdome" that it has something of "Dr Strangelove" about it. The notion that three American political consultants could go over to Russia and successfully assist Boris Yeltsin to win the 1996 election would be ludicrous if it weren't for the fact that it is true! The three protagonists Jeff Goldblum (George), Anthony LaPaglia (Dick) and Liev Schreiber(Joe) have great on-screen rapport and charisma which only serves to heighten the manic atmosphere and paranoia of the piece. The notion that they can't trust anyone pervades the film giving this satire an added dimension; all their most private thoughts and plans have to be expressed on the balcony to their apartment. Even the CIA have them bugged. Their only respite appears to be in the bar at the hotel where a rather bad Russian Elvis Presley impersonator befriends them and offers invaluable information as to the Russian psyche. The film is interspersed with genuine footage from the campaign, plus Yeltsin's bizarre dancing episode which I'm sure any of you out there with long memories must remember as it was one of the most surreal bouts of electioneering ever to have been televised! Naturally George, Dick and Joe are equally unimpressed. Goldblum is touching in his gentle and restrained romancing of Tatiana (Yeltsin's daughter)though I suspect that in reality this did not happen. Dick turning blue in a snowstorm on the tarmac at the airport and barricading the door to their apartment on election night while Joe hides under his jacket, and the musical car journey back to the airport at the end of the film are just a hint at the great moments in this very good movie.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Witty

9/10
Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
31 March 2004

Three American campaign advisers go to Russia to help Yeltsin win the election and a good time was had by viewers.

This is the true story of three guys who went to Moscow to win an election and did so despite death threats (from the people who wanted Yeltsin elected but feared he'd lose- don't ask) and being watched by everyone in the country and outside it.

The real pleasure here is the trio of actors playing the leads, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber who work together like a well oiled machine and seem to be having such a grand time you can't help but watch it and enjoy it. They play it like three long time friends who know each other like the back of their own hands and spread the sense of fun and good times, even in the bad times, so neatly it rolls right off the screen. You don't care what the film is about so long as you get to watch them interacting. This would be a perfectly charming film if it was more interesting to look at, its mostly in hotel rooms that all look the same, with the odd trip to the balcony to speak where no one can over hear. They could also have used a woman as Yeltsin's daughter who is a lovely as the real thing, but those minor quibbles. That said its a joy to behold and highly recommended. 9/10

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Smart and Clever Insider Political Comedy

Author: chrlrhoads from Virginia
4 March 2004

This film is a riot! It is like a political comedy version of "THE WIZARD OF OZ." Only here, Jeff Goldblum is the metaphorical scarecrow,Anthony LaPaglia, the cowardly lion and Liev Shreiber is like the tinman...leading the Russian President Boris Yetzin's daughter (who is like Dorothy) played Svetlana Efremova...through the OZ of political consulting and campaign winning. Boris Krutonog and Gregory Hlady add the proper intrigue and menace to make even those of us who read the original Time Magazine cover story about the real incident...wonder how it will all turn out.It is funny, charming, and truly suspenseful. The trio of actors playing the "fish out of water" American political consultants play off one another beautifully and with the charisma and wit of a real life Hope and Crosby road picture!

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant!

10/10
Author: jacksflicks from Hollywood
19 March 2004

Can't believe I haven't caught this flick until now. Glad the Europeans seem to like it (except one, but he doesn't like anything).

Spinning Boris certainly rates a higher score than 7. The production values - photography, sets, locations, sound - are faultless, as are the pacing, the length, the script, the casting and the direction. And believe me, I was watching for gaffs.

It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud so many times in a movie. Of course, it's impossible not to be amused by Jeff Goldblum - even when he's serious, he's possessed of an irresistible archness. And I never tired of Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber, with their quick shifts between resourcefulness and panic.

It's difficult to say which of the plot points take dramatic license and which are documentary, because the whole story is believable. I don't think the Russians are patronized nor the Americans built up - they all have their virtues and foibles. In fact, the story makes it plain that it is the Americans who are introducing guile into the process on the (ironically Leninist) thesis that the ends justify the means.

I should liked to have seen if the little flirtation between Goldblum and Tatiana led to anything. Likewise, I should like to have known the other characters better: Felix, the go-between, who had a touching moment pondering the fate of World War II veterans selling their medals to make ends meet; Lugov, the mysterious Mafioso; and the Elvis impersonator who became a drinking buddy. And, of course, Tatiana, Yeltsin's daughter, who rates her own biopic. Lots of potential spinoffs here.

Can't wait for the video!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Spinning Boris-To Russia With Democracy ***

7/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
28 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We have a very good plot here when 3 presidential consultants in campaign making are enlisted to go to Russia and work on the campaign of candidate Boris Yeltsin.

We see that because the Russians are so unfamiliar with democracy, ideas of dirty tricks, campaigning with a message, negative campaigning, kissing babies, etc. is all literally foreign to them.

The problem with the potentially good film is with the actors here. Jeff Goldblum, Anthony La Paglia and Liev Schrieber really don't allow their characters to develop and frankly all three are unusually dull. Luckily, it's the story-line in this film that carries it through somewhat.

The movie does turn a little dramatic after being comical for the first part. Again, it is the Russian inexperience with democracy that really comes through here. Cancel an election? Surprising concept, but easy for the Russians to understand.

Of course, by film's end, the Russians have learned to play the political game.

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