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Brother 2
cast: Sergei Bodrov Jr, Victor Sukhorukov, Sergei Makovetsky, Rina Saltykova, and Kirill Pirogov

writer and director: Aleksei Balabanov

123 minutes (18) 1999
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Danila and his buddies are Russian veterans of the Chechen conflict: the equivalent, it seems, of the American Vietnam vet, brutalised by war, rootless and forgotten in a changed society. One of them got out, to the US and fame as an ice hockey player: but a crooked businessman turned sports agent is pocketing all his money. When his brother Konstantin tries to intervene, he ends up dead - but this time, the businessman has annoyed the wrong guys. Evading hit squads at both ends of the journey, Danila and his own mad brother Viktor set off to Chicago to exact revenge - but America is a very different place, and just staying alive here is going to test them to the limits...
   Brother and its sequel is apparently the Rambo of post-Soviet Russia, embodying the frustrations of an exploited and dispossessed generation. The plight of these alienated, strangely naive young men, adrift in a society ruled by the rich and the crooked, has a lot of potential, and watching them turn their skills against their oppressors is great fun. But there's a lot here that's less palatable: the depiction of women as trophies for our hero to collect, and the thoughtless racism, particularly towards black Americans, who are depicted as, and explicitly compared to, beast-like primitives.
   The first half of the film is tense and visually striking, but once the action reaches America, the revenge plot is all but abandoned as Viktor embraces capitalism and Danila attempts to rescue an alarmingly masculine Russian prostitute. I was expecting a Crying Game style revelation at any moment, but alas, nothing so sophisticated here... There's a lot to dislike about this film - but there's a lot that's fascinating, too: not least Sergei Bodrov's Danila, a stonily angelic innocent with the ingenuity of a born killer. Despite narrative clichés and lapses of taste, Brother 2 (aka: On The Way Home) is an atmospheric glimpse of a Russia we hear very little about. It made me want to go out and rent the first movie, and few sequels have that effect.
   Definitely worth a look! As for DVD extras: the making-of documentary on my copy was faulty, but there are interesting notes on how the first film divided Russian opinion, plus filmographies and a trailer.

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