Cargo 200

"Very Good"

Cargo 200 Review


The lone indie release to butt heads this weekend with Edward Zwick's shallowly-scripted Defiance -- a revival of Nicholas Ray's lost technicolor opus Bigger Than Life not withstanding -- Cargo 200, the latest from Russian crime artisan Aleksei Balabanov, trades in the hired-gun thrills of the director's popular Brother trilogy for a highball of venomous gallows humor and satiric perversity.

Left in the dense thicket of Brezhnev's sanctioned invasion of Afghanistan, the term "cargo 200" was given to soldiers who found their way back to the motherland in zinc-lined coffins. Fitting, then, is the opening scene which sees a discussion of the cultural climate between two phantoms of a de-Stalinized USSR: two brothers, one a high-ranking member of the Party (Yuri Stepanov) and the other a professor of scientific atheism at a local university (Leonid Gromov). It's the latter's trip to Leninsk that finds him on the side of the road, garnering help from God-lovin' distillers (Aleksei Serebryakov and Natalya Akimova) and their Vietnamese servant (Mikhail Skryabin).

As the professor goes ten rounds with the distiller over the existence of the Almighty, Valera (Leonid Bichevin) steps out on his fiancé with her friend Angelica (Agniya Kuznetsova). A few spins at the discotheque, a long swig of booze and a quick hook-up later, the two are on their way to Valera's uncle's house to get "the good stuff." In classic interlocking fashion, the uncle happens to be the Commie-baiting distiller who has just sent the professor on his way home. Valera passes out on the floor while all the men begin to leer at his lady fair. It's the farmer's friend Zhurov (Aleksei Poluyan, a natural, plain-faced deviant), a Captain in the Party, who shoots the servant only moments before he forces poor Angelica to get on all fours and penetrates her with an empty bottle.

What at first appears to be a moderate Red remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is quickly impregnated with satirical lunacy so grim that one might call it Russia's answer to American Psycho. Valera, an embodiment of yearning bourgeois ethos with his CCCP t-shirt already looking vintage, ditches the scene while Angelica becomes a "love" slave for Zhurov and the distiller goes down for his servant's murder. One of film's culminating images, a naked Angelica wailing, handcuffed to a bed and surrounded by a swarm of black flies and rotting corpses, is so bleak and horrifying that you might think Francis Bacon served as DP.

Merciless in his eccentric brutality, Balabanov pirouettes on the line between dissent and patriotism. Made as a reaction to a burgeoning nostalgia for the days of wine and Bolsheviks, Cargo 200 is minor and discombobulated by its own outrage, but it is that very same outrage that gives it its rabid urgency. That the film flourishes from controlled dread to flailing hysteria and finally lands at its ominous (or is that hopeful?) coda is thanks to Balabanov's focus even in the most hectic of scenarios. More engaging and effective than its French equivalent (Frontier(s)), Cargo 200 sees the emergence of wicked days to come in the eyes of the erstwhile Union that, between Brezhnev's death in 1982 and Gorbachev's mid-'80s perestroika, found itself without leaders, hope, or conscience.

Aka Gruz 200.



Cargo 200

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 14th June 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $121.1 thousand

Distributed by: Disinformation Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Aleksei Balabanov

Producer:

Starring: Agniya Kuznetsova as Anzhelika, Aleksei Poluyan as Captain Zhurov, Leonid Gromov as Artem, Professor of Scientific Atheism, Aleksey Serebryakov as Aleksey, Leonid Bichevin as Valera, Dmitriy Kubasov as Slavik, as Mikhail, Colonel, Aleksandr Bashirov as Skinny Alcoholic

Also starring:

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