BROTHER (Aleksei Balabanov, 1997)

Danila Bogrov at least claims to have fulfilled his military obligation in a clerical position. No sooner is he out of the service than he wanders onto the outdoor set of a musical video that’s being shot and he is beaten up and detained briefly by police. His mother predicts that he will end up croaking in prison, like his father. Her favorite son is Dani’s older brother. She sends Dani packing to St. Petersburg, so that her unimpeachable son can give the errant boy direction and guidance. Dani’s brother, it turns out, is a killer for the mob, and this is the line of work into which he impresses Danila. Meanwhile, the boy meets all sorts of people, including girls, and has a range of new experiences. He shows himself to be kind-hearted, gentle, honest and generous; but he shoots people dead. Dani must do what he can to prevail in the New Russia. But what will the boy do when to protect his own life his brother sets him up to be taken out?
     Writer-director Aleksei Balabanov’s Brat is a somber, exciting, witty pilgrim’s progress. Before it reaches its deeply moving finale (prepare to shed tears), it presents the former Soviet Union as a cold, disconnected world of crime, drug use, Social Darwinism, rank commercialism. Dani is shown inside a McDonald’s before hitching a ride in the direction of Moscow and another new life. Survival, if it comes, will come anxiously. The former Soviet Union is now a brutal facsimile of the United States.
     Likeable, gracious Sergei Bodrov Jr., whose father directed him in Prisoner of the Mountains (1996), plays Danila. Dear Sergei died at age 30 when he was struck by a glacial slide while climbing a mountain. His career was mightily ascending.


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