Brother (1997)
5/10
Potboiler and dissapointing
13 August 2018
This movie is much inferior to its sequel Brother 2, and some other masterpieces of Balabanov, like the bleakly realistic Cargo 200 . That it is a no budget film is not a problem, many Eastern European movies are and are far superior. This is a commercial hit, and it is a Russian version of a Hollywood movie. Decent acting, but ultimately boring and lacking on artistic front, it is nevertheless improvement compared to the similar Russian cinema of the day, worth mostly for its realistic portrayal of the Russian decadence in the 90s and beyond.

The movie is tailored as populist take pandering to its Russian public. Brother 2 is more nationalistic but also much more artistically accomplished. This move was meant to earn money and it did, so Balabanov used it to make his arthouse masterpiece "Of freaks and men" that has much more to say about a true state of "Russian soul" than this one. All foreigners are portrayed in bad light. The murderous cute boy Danila (actor died in an avalanche, fittingly, a few years later, ushering him into legend in the eyes of vull gar Russian public) goes on to search for his identity by dating corrupt married women and druggies an accurate portrayal of womanhood in Russia to this day.

The mobsters are all realistic, common Russian folk, who practice rr ape (that they became famous for during WWII, so much so that Yugoslav leader Djilas had to scorn Stalin for that, while Stalin defended the "poor soldier lover boys" and approved the rr apes as normal, thinking nothing about the innocent victims, he tried and often managed to enn slave. Fittingly, being kicked out of proud Yugoslavia and when trying to off leader Tito, getting an apt and bad ass message from fellow autocrat, much more sophisticated than the Georgian proudest son - "We caught 7 people trying to kill me. If you don't stop sending them, I will have to send one myself. There will be no need to send another." ). Movie deals ample doses of adult terry, murder, petty mob and Russian version of western hubris and hypocrisy, that is here documented at its most wounded, washed in copious amounts of vodka.

Having been to Russia at its deepest point of ruin, at the time this movie was made, I can attest to its realism. The unclean fly markets at every metro station, immorality, adoration for worst of western "culture" or dismissing it with unearned hubris, all ring very real. President Putin got Russia out of this mud, and it is no surprise that he is ever so popular. Despite it being essentially a populist commercial Russian potboiler pandering and complimenting the worst instincts of this sometimes great, but often self absorbed nation, it is worth a watch if only to understand how decline and decadence look like up close. Russians might tap themselves over their thick shoulders telling that it is movie speaking only to themselves, but this movie is in fact very successful not only in over the top pandering managing to earn director enough money to move to more serious projects (luckily for everyone), but also for revealing, beneath the nationalistic facade, the true face of well deserved decline after decades of Russian imperial lism in the cloak of being the main bearer of socialist idea that they almost ruined - a fate that awaits the Amuricans too, as the Soviets were as conceited as they are before hitting the rock bottom during the well deserved but awakening Yeltsin years
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