This is a look "inside" the Russian mafia at the men who call themselves "thieves by law". In theory those that call themselves "thieves by law" are to have no home, no property of their own, no wife, no family. They are to have nothing that will tie them down and divert their attention from the brotherhood or give them pause. The film focuses on three men who have survived the prisons, the wars and the other nastiness to become "respected" men of means, with money and families.
I saw the film as part of the world première presentations at the Tribeca Film Festival and I was very disappointed. Yes, the film tells the story of the mobs raise to power in the former Soviet Union and much of Europe, but at the same time the film is very cursory. If you are at all interested in organized crime the odds are strong that you will know more about the history of what happened then what is shown. The film is only allowed to briefly deal with the history of the mob and what it really means because the film spends a great deal of time with its subjects in their lives now.
Ultimately the problem with the film is in how the three men paint themselves. Sure they are are very candid and forth right in letting you know that they are bad guys, but they bend over backwards to make sure that you know that they are not that bad. They are trying to paint themselves as later day Robin Hoods giving to the church and helping various charities, as they say out right they are trying to buy respect with their good deeds. The result of this nice talk is the film becomes a project to make them look like slightly tarnished saints rather than nasty guys who would (still) kill you for the wrong remark. And since they are selling themselves they down play the details of their deeds since it works against their goals. The down playing makes the film less of the expose promised.
Sure they are compelling characters, but my expectation for the film was that of hard hitting documentary about organized crime, not a piece on the current life of three of the mob survivors.
I suppose if you know what you're getting you'll like it more than me. See it expecting a brief introduction to the subject and you'll be fine. If you want blood and guts and details you'll be sorely disappointed.
Personally I would love to see a film where the three guys sat down and really told us what happened and what it was like in detail, then they can show us how they rose above it. If that was this film I wouldn't have felt like I was cheated by a film that promises one thing and delivered another. I think the filmmakers did the men and history a disservice.
10 of 30 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?