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This film tells a bitter tale of a dysfunctional family. Joshua, a cold-blooded professional killer, returns to his Brighton Beach boyhood home for a "job." He knows it will be difficult to return to the Russian-immigrant community of his youth--in his eyes, we see anticipation of the inevitable emotional pain and psychic turmoil that seeing his forsaken family and estranged companions will bring him. To do his job, and try to maintain some semblence of sanity, he has had to wall off his humanity from even himself. Seeing his kid brother, who adores him, talking with his dying mother, who still loves him, and yes, arguing with his abusive father, begins to wreak havoc with his personal defenses. As his steely demeanor begins to dissolve, we are shown the soul of a hit-man crumbling away, piece by piece. Finally, all that he now allows himself to admit that he loves is agonizingly torn away from him and he is left with the ultimate punishment for his transgressions.Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Visually arresting in many of its scenes, the narrative suffers badly from a lack of originality and from characters whose motivations are fuzzy at best. Joshua has had the same type of stable middle-class upbringing as his younger brother, yet he becomes a remorseless killer. Why? Reuben, the younger brother, seems to have sound values; he knows his brother for what he is, yet demonstrates a degree of loyalty far beyond what one would expect. Why? Alla appears reasonably intelligent and not altogether emotionally starved, but is drawn to Joshua. Why?
The final irony in which Reuben and Alla die on Joshua's account will be familiar to even occasional filmgoers.
If the character of the father is to be cited as a source of the sons' alienation, it is altogether human to be frustrated (and therefore quick-tempered) when your best efforts have so little to show for them. The man has been worn down by life, yet he cares for his elderly mother and terminally ill wife with as much tender love as he can muster. An adulterer? With his wife dying slowly of a brain tumor, perhaps he deserves a kinder appellation.
The family is Jewish, although that appears to be of no real significance in regard to the characters, plot or atmosphere. Likewise the story being set in Brooklyn. Striking visuals can do only so much for a film. More attention to the narrative would have been helpful.
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