This is a Balabanov film with an independent spirit but featuring some loud names (Nikita Mikhailkov and Renata Litvinova). It also includes the talented Balabanov regular Sergei Makhovetski.
This film does a great job of portraying a slice of modern Russian life, in the more stable 2000s, when the economy had begun to normalize under Putin as opposed to the wild-wild west 90's where the Brother films were set. We have the oligarch figure in the face of Nikita Mikhailkov, we have a Russian blue beret veteran who appears to have seen action in Chechnya, and we have a team of self made entrepreneurs trying to break into the bigtime legitimately, without needing a mob cover. It's almost as if you took both of the Brother films, cut back on the violence, and slowed them down.
The casting and music is excellent, as it usually is in Balabanov's films. The minus is that this film narratively throws its balance heavily in one direction in the first half, then plays some counterbalancing catchup in the latter half to give the other characters room. To me this feels as if the movie was either not written in a balanced way or the film was edited in a lopsided manner. There is one character who disappears without any further followup, which technically passes (it introduces no gaps) but is not satisfying. The credibility of the love story is also slightly questionable.
The key attraction of it to me is the anthropological slice of life it presents, and the excellent casting of types. In that, it is more enjoyable for the characters rather than the plot which is acceptable and touching, but not the main reason to be watching.
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