Brother (Balabanov, 1997)

The sociopath hero of Aleski Balabanov’s Brother represents a startling allegory surrounding a generation of Russian youth post communist collapse – part killer, part savior. In almost a playful country prologue, Danila (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) wonders onto the set of a art film production, interrupting a graceful, long tracking shot much to the chagrin of the pretentious director. When pressed to leave, Danila shows his brutality (although effectively offscreen via a dissolve). This boyish Russian teen and his arc break apart every movie cliche. After the attack at the movie set, Danila is forced to visit his hitman brother in the cold doldrums of St. Petersburg. So of course this fresh faced kid out of the army is going to get sucked in to the life of the hitman and get tainted by the grim and violent realities. Wrong. Danila takes to the killing like a fish to water and with more intelligence and skill than his bother or any other idiot street thug. Often at a reserved and humble pace (mirroring it’s heroes demeanor), Brother tracks Danila through the big city, and he’s never threatened once by the stark picture of poverty, spousal abuse, or loss of hope. It’s the odd combination of money and genuine friendship which feed his soul. Scary doesn’t begin to describe Danila’s blank stares, welcoming smiles, and fearless MacGuyver-like way of killing. The overall film falters from an aesthetic standpoint, never distinguishing any visual or audible rhythm. But there’s always Danila’s music obsessed smile, waiting for us to judge, yearning to display a little weakness so he can decide whether to kill, or salvage.

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