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Violent, but necessarily so
princesskaeli26 April 2004
This film was a blockbuster hit in Russia, for many reasons that international viewers might not understand. "Brother" is a film that speaks directly to Russians (especially the urban population) about the time period directly following the fall of the Soviet Union. This was a lawless time, full of uncertainty about everything including whether your life would be ended by a random criminal on the street. It also suggests the Russian disillusionment with the Chechen War (well, the first one of the 1990s).

Balabanov has created an intense crime drama that attempts to answer Dostoyevsky's "eternal question": what does one do in a lawless society? Danila, the hero, has lost his innocence during the war in Chechnya. In this way he really represents all of Russia in that he has lost his heritage and his identity, and now must make his way in the new Russia. Like many others at the time, Danila turns to crime in order to survive.

The most heart-wrenching thing about "Brother" is that it has an incredible likeness to the reality of life in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. Though on the surface it seems to be full of senseless violence, Danila's search for identity (that mirrors Russia's) calls for an honest picture of the hard life of the period.
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a piece of Russia
andfalzo2 September 2005
If you were in S.Petersburgh in the early nineties, you feel this movie has been able to grab a cubic meter of air of the city at that time, pack it, and give it to its viewers to breathe. The effect is physical. I can feel the smell of the wet dusty roads, the moulded no man's land of stairways in post soviet blocks of flats and much more. Apart from this high accuracy in physical sensation, the movie is multi-layered (you can watch in it a "boevik" action movie, a social analysis of the period, even a Dostoevki-like study on the value of brotherhood and after all, a unique picture of what Russia is, was, and will be. Those who can enjoy it in original will find some tasty bits of Russian irony and humor.
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dave-sturm17 May 2010
You will be marinated in Russian-ness after watching this gritty crime drama shot in St. Petersburg. Set in the early 1990s after the fall of Soviet communism, it's a movie whose co-star is the place. The crime and gunplay in the foreground, which cropped up after the collapse of stern authority, seems to perfectly match what we see in the background -- trash-strewn streets, grimy flats, drug-fueled nightclubs. Everyone is poor or barely getting by. Even the gangsters, who you'd think would have some Scarface-type perks, seem to live in squalor.

One thing that will instantly strike you is how everyone in the movie looks like someone you know, not a Hollywood star. I want to call particular attention to Svetlana Pismichenko, the film's love interest, who plays the driver of a streetcar that hauls lumber (?). She's not pretty at all, but you see the love she is capable of and, all I can say is I wish she were my girlfriend. Her last scene is one of the most memorable portraits of heartbreak I have ever seen. She has incredible eyes.

Sergei Bodrov plays the lead, a soldier just back from Chechnya who is drawn into his brother's gangland activities. We never see a flashback of what happened over there and, when asked by others in the film what he did, grins and said he was a clerk in HQ. As we come to see the fearlessness and ruthlessness he is capable of, it is obvious he is lying. This man is steel tempered in a furnace. His gangster enemies are no match for a man with his willingness to prepare for and face death.

I've never been to Russia, but I lived in the Czech Republic for three years and I can testify to the authenticity of this movie's backdrop. When the Iron Curtain fell, it revealed decaying rust belt cities, but also a tough-minded population of attractive and spirited people who, somehow, found ways to be happy in tough times. I am American and half Polish, and this movie made me proud to be a Slav.

A scene in the movie is a homage to Russian good cheer. It is a party in a Russian flat where a few dozen people are chatting, eating, smoking pot, drinking vodka, singing along to a guitar, shooting pool and having fun. They're all young people in their 20's. You'll wish you were at that party.
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Painfully realistic, great action and acting
DevilsFan19 December 2003
I haven't seen a crime movie with action more realistic than that in Brat. This movie emphasizes that when you get shot you can't run as fast as a cheetah unlike the Hollywood films even today. It was a breakthrough picture for Russia's film-making and, in my opinion, a picture that could take on most of American movies of the same or similar genre. You wanna see the way things were done in Russia five years ago? You wanna see cruel reality? You want to see the real criminal side of Russia? See Brat. It isn't only an amazing movie because it is so realistic, the acting is awesome and you won't get bored for sure. Brat 10/10
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Bleak, gritty....very modern Russian. Great movie.
trailerking2714 May 2003
I really liked this movie. It was a gangster crime movie, but in a totally different style than most American films. There was a good story and great visuals of Russia. I liked the fact that not everything had to be explained to the audience. The director assumed that we were able to think for ourselves, i.e.; the lead character's 'true' past in the army. I don't believe that he was "just a clerk at HQ". I saw the DVD version, and watched the interview with the director. The film is even more amazing considering the shoestring budget. He got his friends to perform some of the acting roles as well as write and play the music (which was quite good). This is a great gritty film. Its one of the more watchable movies from Russia that I have seen. I gave it a 7 out of 10. I plan to see 'Prisoner of the Mountain' next, can't wait.
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More than a crime drama...
xdream20004 January 2001
One thing that some other reviewers failed to comment on is the way that you discover just who Danila is - he covers-up the fact that he saw action in Chechnya and always says he served far from combat. This story is really about the Russian crime situation LESS than about an entire generation of people who served in Afghanistan and Chechnya ('94-'96 and '99-present). This movie will be misunderstood by many Westerners (I am Russian myself) because it does not fit the traditional Hollywood screenplay style - and its characters do not behave themselves like most Hollywood characters would in a crime drama. There is a very Slavic quality in this film that I am VERY happy to see preserved and NOT Westernized. (You must see Brat2 to learn more about Brat.)
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Fascinating, Highly recommended
pyotr-33 August 1999
A fascinating look at the underworld of St. Petersburg, filled with excellent performances, especially by Sergei Bodrov III and Yuri Kutznetsov. I was swept away by the story and characters, thrown into their world. And there is no place else like St. Petersburg. I'd say it's a "must see."
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Realistic movie about criminals
zhekov17 January 2009
We had a similar lawless period in Bulgaria (the closest satellite to ex-USSR), so I believe that the film is fully correct in this aspect. More important, however, is that of the thousands of films about crimes and criminals, only a few are more or less realistic; my work is closely related to the judicial system, so I know what I'm talking about. Even the real-crime TV shows lie somewhat, their cases carefully selected - always fully resolved, always black and white. For that, and for that alone, Brother deserves a 10/10.

Note that in Russia, "kavkazian" (caucasian) stands for immigrants from the southern ex-USSR republics, mostly muslims, a fair share of them involved in criminal activities.
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Personal and cultural connections in "Brat"--- Note: this contains possible spoilers!
lczirr11 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
In the film "Brat", themes surrounding relationships and family take on broader meanings in Russian culture. The main character, Danila, returns to visit his brother Viktor at his mother's insistence. The relationship between the brothers is unlike what one would expect; Viktor even betrays Danila at one point. Danila does not make a real connection with anyone; by the end he has severed ties with everyone he had met. Interestingly, his actions form a parallel to Russia's attempts to leave behind the past and hint at possible attitudes toward other cultures.

The title "Brother" itself indicates that the relationship between the brothers is the most important in the film. Viktor was much like a father to Danila in the past, indicating that their relationship, while always close, had changed over the years. Viktor's character represents the past: he is successful only because of his criminal dealings, as many were during the Soviet days. Danila is pulled into these dealings of the past because he has no other direction, just as the present Russia was still unsure of where it was going. The past is well known and understood, even if it is not the best course of action. Danila kills other gangsters, who are clearly part of this past world: he operates within the system in order to destroy it. In many instances he must kill these individuals out of defense, just as certain aspects of the old Soviet culture had to be destroyed or they would ruin the new way of life Even Sveta's situation represents the past. Danila tries to free her from her abusive relationship, yet she is disgusted with the way he tries to help her. Similarly, many people might not be willing to kill off or sever ties with the past; it is the only life they have known.

Other people who Danila meets are similarly different forces acting on the culture; some of them could stand for foreign influences in Russia. The girl Ket exemplifies Western culture, particularly America: she likes to party and eat McDonalds. Ket's obsession with money also depicts the stereotypical American perspective. Danila eventually breaks off connection with her, giving her some money before leaving her. This attitude illustrates the fact that while the new Russia is open to the far western influence of America, the people do not necessarily want to accept this culture, nor is it a good idea for them to do so if they wish to maintain their own identity. Danila's relation to the German represents the general Russian relation to this western European country. Russia's relations with Germany have occasionally been somewhat tense, and the character points out "what is good for the Russian is death for the German." The German refuses the money that Danila offers him in the end, perhaps a statement that Germany (or maybe Europe in general) has no tolerance for the morally corrupt way of the old Soviet Union. Indeed, Danila brings the bodies to the graveyard where the German and others stay, urging him to give them a decent burial. It seems that the new Russia wants other Europeans to figuratively bury the past, and can not necessarily accomplish this task alone. However, the fact that Danila breaks off ties with the German shows a desire for Russia to deal with the past in its own way. Whether or not this will lead to trouble in the future is uncertain. Yet it seems that Danila is entirely capable of dealing with these problems on his own, even though the means by which he does so is not ideal in most eyes.
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If you like reservoir dogs, go and see this
searchy26 March 1999
This is a great Russian movie, made in a post-soviet Russia, which is looking for a new identity. It is new style Russian cinema, cheaply made due to lack of money, but therefore it has a very genuine feel of it. The story of Daniil that becomes more and more violent than his - already gruesome - brother, is very compelling and horrible at the same time. If you want to begin with a modern Russian movie, rent this one, it has that 'old ultra-violence' thing. It will definitely blow off your socks.
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A morally ambiguous hero much violence and a neat plot make for a great movie
gagewyn10 February 2000
This is a great movie with alot of violence. Throughout the movie there are long stretches of Danila making explosives, sawing off a shot gun, and fashioning weapons, with Nau music playing. The rest of the movie consists mainly of him using these weapons at his job as a hitman. Make no mistake, there is depth to this film. It is more than an excuse to show violence.

Danila is an interesting character. At the ame time he blows away people regularly with no remorse and little thought. Its his job, may as well do it well.

I watched this as part of a film series at college in the original Russian, and the group of Russians sitting behind me laughed at many points. The laughter confused me a bit, but the second time I saw it was pretty funny, and not in the usual one liner sense of action movies. I especially liked the part where Danila asks if he can copy the directorÕs Nau CD.

I highly recommend this film for people who either like random violence or can tolerate it for the sake of an interesting plot. The film has a distinctive feel to it.
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Realistic and bleak portrayal
sergepesic16 September 2008
I really can't understand why would anybody compare this movie with Tarantino's drivel. This is a realistic and bleak portrayal of post-communist Russia, before Putin's ascend to power. Desperate times usually bring the worst in people, and Russia in early 90's is no exception. The rigid communist structure collapsed and nothing replaced it for some time. The vacuum was filled with gangsters and thugs of all kinds. This is the time when young Danilo ( excellent late Sergei Bodrov) comes to St. Petersburg to find his fortune. He has a twisted code of morality, and at least in the beginning, he preys only on the bad guys.The bleakness of average people's lives in those harsh times is heartbreaking, and this movie is brilliant in that regard. This is not fake show-off like "Pulp Fiction", this is a slice of real life horrors.
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Don't shoot Butusov
grendel-288 April 1999
Dunno about great, but it's definitely a DIFFERENT Russian movie. A demobilized conscript turned hitman on the backdrop of new capitalist Russia and the music "progressive-rock" group Nautilus Pompilius. Product of the war in Chechnya Danila Bogrov is a young man who knows how to kill and practically nothing else, his relations with people he does not have to kill are the most difficult ones for him. There is a lot of violence but it happens either outside the screen or almost outside, here Brat reminds me of Fireworks by Takeshi Kitano. Good Stanislavsky school of acting so visible in old Soveit movies in this one does not exist (save maybe Kuznetsov) but camerawork is rather impressive. I'm not sure I like this movie but definitely it does not suck.
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Total Reality in the movie
mikomijade5 February 2007
That is what makes BRAT real masterpiece of the film-making - it looks real to the last shot. Every moment is a true history of Post Soviet Russia. Even Ukraine was of that kind. We are kinda different now but not in 1990's. All the atmosphere is real - I was not very adult then but I remember everything of the 1990's clearly - I was 17 when the movie was made and this movie was a call of reality for everyone here. You don't have to say it is impossible - we had people killed like that... Sergey Bodrov is a good actor and all the actors in the movie are great. The music of Nautilus makes the atmosphere of being there just at the moment of the story development. This band was on the top of it's popularity at the moment of the middle 1990's. There are a lot of people here allover the Post Soviet places who are fans of the band.

Any way - this movie is about some real aspects of real Post Soviet history.
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Just one of the best movies of all time
gezzag26 October 2018
This was more of a movie than any other gangster movies I have seen and I do not even speak Russian. If this is the city where Putin became Dep. Mayor then you can get an insight into Russia today. Putin must have got acting lessons from Sergei Bodrov Jr and Aleksie Balabanov (the star and director of this wonderful movie).

The jokes, like accidentally 'photo bombing' ruining a film shoot at the beginning, are so very Russian but even I can laugh about them and I have no connection with Russia save for a love of the literature and art. This is Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gorky on celluloid and even Tchaikovsky could not make a more fitting or apt score. So sad that the director and star have both gone to that great Soviet Union in the sky on krylya (wings) of .narrative epic.The fact that nobody tells the truth because nobody knows any truth is a very post communist joke but real too.

The music by Nautilus Pompeius was spot on and totally in sympathy with the brooding mood of the film. I have watched this many times and am still trying to speak a few words of Russian because there are still things to find in the film. This made the female sequel Sisters (2001) Syostry a great successor, even though it is totally different.Both should join the canon of the best ever movies.
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Broken ethics
exec22817 January 2009
Sad story about Russo-Chechen war and post-perestroika time. In fact, the war was not demonstrated, just referred. Young Danila (dim. from Danil/Daniil) returned from war with plainly simple perception: "killing can solve the problem" without even realising that it will cause other problems.

Other aspects of ethics are fragmentarily gathered from official honesty, modesty, labour valour of soviet times and practical slyness and insubordination of soviet times. Add brotherhood here.

And with this fragmented ethics and credo he encounters criminal world of Russia in 199x.

Highly probably other cultures would not understand these inner Russian problems, as I did not understand problems of Columbia in Márquez's «Cien años de soledad». And the film really was not destined for outer world.

Many people believe that Danila could be an etalon of purity and the right decisions about criminals (kind of Robin Hood's romantics for spectators). I suppose that those people are angry at life without possibility to change it, therefore saluting ultimate methods of J. Stalin.

Personally, I think it's about broken youth of these war boys that made them not quite social, though honest.

For those who did not understand it yet, Sveta pronounces this key-problem in plain Russian, at the end of the film.
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A powerful Russian film
CaptRon-219 February 2000
I saw the sub-titled version in America and was truly impressed with this foreign film. Sergei Badrov was excellent (and handsome). This film gives you a very broad view of Russian life by just watching the background of the movie.
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What happens when Ayn Rand fanatics and the IMF run a country. (SPOILERS!)
zardoz1227 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
While "Brat" may be a crackerjack crime drama, it is an ever better view of life in post-Soviet Russia. Mafiyas, consumerism, crumbling apartments, pretty young coke addicts, idiot American tourists who can't speak a word of Russian, ancient Volga Germans living in graveyards, crappy Russian art-rock bands, whacks after whacks after the center of this is Danila, a Chechen War veteran whose endless violence is married to a childlike mien. This former Spetsnaznik is sent to St. Petersburg by his baggy mother to live with his John Malkovitch-like brother. She doesn't know he is a wannabe mobster, and Danila gets involved in a way of life more dangerious than the war. An interesting companion to the Moscow-based expat rag "the eXile."
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A Russian response to 'The Godfather'
ppomorski18 August 2015
'Brat' is a 1997 drama that made Sergei Bodrov a superstar and, following his tragic death shortly thereafter, a legend of Russian cinema. I remember my elder brother telling me to give it a try sometime around 2000, but it took me a further 15 years to get round to doing that.

'Brat' has so much to offer in its 100 minutes of running time that it leaves a viewer breathless. An incredible portrayal of a Russia that is no more, excellent acting, a few rare moments of very dark (and very funny) Russian humour, fascinating drab landscapes of late-1990s Saint Petersburg, some of the best use of music I've ever seen in any film and a perfect ending. And lots, lots to think about once the closing credits start rolling.

It's like a Russian response to 'The Godfather', made with a budget of $10,000. What an unforgettable film. Go see it if you have a chance, and don't wait for 15 years...
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Music saves Danila more than once.
ayaltir11 May 2004
In the movie Brother, the hero, Danila, has two different sides to his personality: his creative, peaceful inner life that comes with his music versus his desire to get more powerful, making more money by killing, and climbing the ladder of success with rapid steps. Danila loves music very much. Music is like a gateway to his inner peaceful life. He buys new CDs and keeps listening them on his compact disc player when is strolling around the streets of St. Petersburg. We listen to the songs that he listens to, and we can sometimes understand the mood of the moment. Also Danila does not act selfish when he gets money in his hands, even though he worked hard to earn it by risking his life and killing people. However he is not selfish and shares the money he gets with his friends, and especially the two women in the movie Sveta and Kat is concerned he does not hesitate to share his money with them. He wants Sveta to enjoy his music hoping that she would be able to share his inner life. He buys a VCR and together with Sveta they watch some music clips.

Throughout the movie Danila gets richer and more comfortable with the city. He keeps buying more CDs to listen to, and we see him walking around the city more and more. One time while he was listening to music and strolling, a man comes out from the corner and shoots Danila, at the same time Danila shoots him. Both of them get hit, the assassin dies, but Danila was hit on compact disc player which breaks down, but Danila is unharmed. This is actually an important event in the movie. The breaking of the compact disc player would mean that Danila would no longer be able to listen to music. Yet for one last time the music literally protects him. Further more, he would not be able to get in touch with his inner life, and he does not get another compact disc player. Also, from another point of view, this event could be considered as the end of Danila's peaceful inner life. It could be interpreted that the city has weakened him, and took away some part of him, although he might be still powerful with a shotgun, and with his skills. He thinks there is more action, more money and more power in Moscow, so he is going there.
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Painfully realistic a beautiful piece of the Amazing Russian Cinema
sam_smithreview22 April 2016
I haven't seen a crime movie with action more realistic than is, and can guarantee you that neither have you.This movie emphasizes that when you get shot you can't run as fast as a cheetah unlike the Hollywood films portray every day. The movie is multi-layered (you can watch in as an action movie), a social analysis of the period, even a Dostoevsky-like study on the value of brotherhood and after all, a unique picture of what Russia is, was, and will be.

The story is told brilliantly the main character Danila, doesn't tell or brag about his past, he actually makes himself out to be a humble guy, instead of saying he served in the hot spot in the war and was given recognition and bravery award for saving his platoon members, he often reminds people that he was far from combat, he is passionate and caring and not aggressive at all.

If you were in S. Petersburgh in the early nineties, you feel this movie has been able to grab a cubic meter of air of the city at that time, pack it, and give it to its viewers to breathe.

filled with excellent performances, especially by Sergei Bodrov III and Yuri Kutznetsov. I was swept away by the story and characters, thrown into their world. I'd have to say it's a MUST SEE!!!
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Hollywood can only DREAM of being a fraction as good, EVER.
Meowsha12 January 2012
Many people have already stated why this movie is excellent, read through their reviews.

This is far better than any Hollywood dribble, as almost always is.

I can see why many Westerners don't understand the movie - things aren't fed to you quite as much as they are in Hollywood.

You actually need to figure things out for yourself in this film. It's great for it if you actually have a brain.

Definitely worth watching. Slightly violent, but worth it.

If you can't speak any Russian, chances are you will miss a LOT of the innuendos and not understand a lot of this movie.

If you read, most of the "bad" reviews have come from insecure pro-Hollywood people who aren't used to foreign films and people who can't speak the Russian language.
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Brother review
jessg20011 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Danila is a prime example of a young Russian who has been tainted by war; but he also represents hope for post-Soviet Russia. In many reviews he is described as a 'cold blooded killer' and as 'showing no remorse'- which is sometimes true, however he is so honest and good at the same time. He never once in the movie betrays a promise, and he helps anyone in trouble that crosses his path. Although he seems to find it easy shooting and killing other mafia killers, he puts himself in the 'hero' role on the streets: protecting innocent people from harm such as the German and the ticket collector on the bus.

His taste in music reflects aspects of his personality- his disdain for American and European dance music mirrors his views on these countries, and how the army has built in an unnecessary, unreasonable bitterness for certain types of people (i.e. Jews)into his mind, without him really understanding why he feels this way. He says 'whats the difference?' when referring to Jews and Germans, and Americans and French people- showing his lack of real experience with people of these nations, and thus his ignorance.

His relationship with the battered wife, I think, represents his need to do good, perhaps out of guilt for all the wrong he has done. The casting of her as a blatantly unattractive woman who is much older than Danila and who's character has absolutely nothing in common with him is important: in front of him is not a woman he is in love with, but someone who is in dire need of a hero, and of something positive in her life. Thus he does his best to make her happy, only failing (in my view) because the relationship is not real- the passion isn't really there.

Unlike most people, i enjoyed Brother more than the sequel to it- it is understated, but says a lot about society and about relationships. There is so much to say about it, yet so little time!
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Quite true
lawer28 May 2008
This film is a picture of 90s. Unlike latest post-Soviet never-ending dumb movies and serials about "brigades", "bratki" and the same garbage, "Brat" is more or less realistic. Of course, I mean the spirit of those times, not that everyone had gun and shot bad guys on the streets. The feeling of hopelessness and deadlock. Freaks, poverty, "new Russians", former intelligentsia who had to stand on the streets or markets and sell all kinds of things - all that really happened in 90s. And "Brother" reflects that quite true. Bodrov (R.I.P.) is right for his character. Also there is no romanticizing of criminals, no stupid "cop"-propaganda (we can see the both clichés in the above mentioned modern Russian potboilers)– just a piece of a contemporary's life even though it is obvious grotesque. Weak point: some episodes are too long.
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Potboiler and dissapointing
jeremia-9423213 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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