The title comes from the nickname given to the protagonist, Mustafa (Olzhas Nusuppaev), a 15-year-old with unspecific mental problems whose mother isn't quite sure what to do with him. In lieu of any guiding purpose in life, Mustafa hooks up with his mother's boyfriend, Sakura (Eduard Tabyshev), a cigarette-smoking, sunglasses-wearing, motorcycle-riding shyster who helps organize the aforementioned boxing matches and uses Mustafa to round up new fighters. It's a living, of sorts, and Mustafa doesn't have a lot else to do but wander the countryside with a blank look on his face (he does that a lot). When the boxing turns out to be a little more of a blood sport than one would have imagined, Mustafa at first has misgivings, but soon gets himself in deeper than would be recommended for a schizophrenic with disassociative tendencies.
Writer/director Guka Omarova has her fingers in a subject with plenty of potential. Firstly there's the Kazakhstan setting, a windblown prairie littered with crumbling Soviet-era edifices, falling-down shacks and rusted machinery, its people a mix of Russian and Asiatic faces. There's also the potential inherent in its boxing story involving such a mix of criminality and naked ambition, where people with nothing to lose and no training get beaten to a bloody pulp just for the prize at the end. But through a mixture of rather dull writing (there are times when you wish this very quiet feature was actually a silent one), and some quite sloppy camerawork, little of anything is achieved here, despite a couple of third act dramatic wrinkles.
Omarova wanted to achieve a certain sort of verité affect here, it seems, with her sparse storyline and the use of unprofessional actors. But there's a point at which unprofessional actors seem simply bad instead of authentic and a story with too little in the way of plot can appear simply poorly thought-out.
Needs training wheels.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 1st March 1978
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Guka Omarova
Screenwriter: Guka Omarova
Starring: Lynne Frederick as Samantha, John Leyton as Alan Falconer, Stephanie Beacham as Beth