Opening with a single take of a jewel heist gone wrong, Crimson Gold is the furthest from what we've come to expect from a genre that's become about machismo and futile tough-talk. The shot lingers on a doorway, where a crowd gathers listening to the off-camera shop owner held at gunpoint by Hussein (Hussein Emadeddin). Hussein drifts back and forth in front of the camera: a big, lethargic, sleepy-eyed outsider. It ends with the shop owner drilled dead and Hussein shooting himself in the head. Violence begets violence, and the crowd (and, by extension, the audience) watches on with a mixture of helplessness and curiosity.

From there, Crimson Gold tracks back in time showing Hussein's life beforehand, and the steps that led up to this moment of violence. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (working from a script by his mentor, Abbas Kiarostami) sets up a ticking time-bomb premise, then shows a series of everyday events charged with social unrest. Hussein is shown as a harmless looking pizza deliveryman, a fat man on a motorcycle whose shell-shocked acquiescence blends into the paranoid working class neighborhoods of Tehran (routinely patrolled by corrupt cops) and the wealthy uptown penthouses he delivers to.

Continue reading: Crimson Gold Review