Sergei Selyanov

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Cargo 200 Review


Very Good
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).

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The Cuckoo Review


Very Good
The bird to which the title refers is not one of the warbling kind. It applies to a rare individual: a Finnish army sniper in the last days of World War II, considered by his mates to be a coward. Though we're not treated to the conduct that inspired this condemnation among the men of the squad as they plod through a Lapland foest, we see them chain their "cuckoo," Veiko (Ville Haapasalo), to a piton which they deeply anchor to a rock and leave him to fend as well as he can with his rifle, a few cans of food, and some supplies. His task is to free himself before an enemy or wild animal comes along and before the Russian planes scouting the area discover him.

Once his ex-comrades are gone, he tries the obvious: shooting the chain. But the metal is too hefty for his bullets, so a quick escape is out of the question. MacGyver-like, he sets about to employ material within reach, which turns out to be a blast of gunpowder collected from his bullets, and the burning of lichens to gradually wear down the rock with expansion and contraction. It's a credit to the filmmaker's sense of reality that the job is not made to look trivial. In fact, it goes on long enough to exhaust Veiko's food, his strength, and a bit of our patience, though Veiko doesn't lose his confidence for a moment and we get a sense of the man's perseverance.

Continue reading: The Cuckoo Review

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The Cuckoo Movie Review

The Cuckoo Movie Review

The bird to which the title refers is not one of the warbling kind....

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