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Unfiled April 7, 2006
Zhest adj. [Russ, ] bullshit
By Abram Magomedov Browse author

Here's the lowdown on the plot. Marina, a jaded babe reporter from Komsomolskaya Pravda is covering the arrest of a teacher turned deranged serial killer rapist. When the dude escapes from the psych ward he's been held in and takes refuge in a sprawling abandoned dacha suburb somewhere on the edge of Moscow, she gives chase. It's a universe populated exclusively by homicidal drifters, drugged hobos and gangsters. Things get sticky when her cop escort gets knifed by a motorcycle gang of Mad Max-style vagrants, complete with side cars, rotting teeth and aviator glasses. So, she's left to her own devices, and must figure out a way to get out alive. In the process, she discovers that the serial killer was probably set up by government chinovniki to cover up the brutal murder of a young girl by some politician's son. Or so it seems. She never actually finds out the truth -- and neither do we. And truth, as we are told by three talking heads Marina hallucinates at the end of the film, is a slippery thing. Yadda-yadda-yadda. Roll credits. The banal meaning of this film: truth is a confusing concept and anyone trying to get at it will have to deal with a) drugs and b) violence. Oooh, edgy!

Zhest is trying too hard to be Hollywood (or the liberal arts film-crit version of Hollywood). It plainly borrows Oliver Stone's violent psychedelic visual style of Natural Born Killers and Tarantino's eccentric and witty line busting characters from Pulp Fiction. But in the process of mimicking, Zhest ends up being nothing more than a cheap copy of two American classics, a hybrid B-movie shot with an A-movie budget. It's particularly sad because Russian filmmakers are at the top of their game when they aren't worried about how their film will be received in the West, like the first Boomer.

In an attempt to be deep, the dialogue was over dramatized and vapid. The Russians didn't get the beauty of Pulp Fiction. Yeah, it was filled with one long soliloquy after another, but its characters weren't moralizing or opening up to each other, they were spilling raw Americana. Zhest misses that point by a long shot and the bits and pieces or Russia that do shine through are cliche and irrelevant.

Although Zhest more or less captures Stone's editing style, it miserably fails to deliver the entertaining on-screen violence that should be expected of film worshiping at NBK's altar. The KP reporter, dressed in a mini skirt, cowboy boots and a wife beater, is a total babe. So when her cop escort was killed and she was left stranded, it dawned on me. So that's why they dressed her up so pretty! She gonna get raped, she has to get raped! That's her punishment making men slaves to her sex. Wrong! It came close a half-dozen times, but never progressed past her skirt being lifted. Instead, she's miraculously saved each time. And that's this film's greatest flaw. Everyone knows that good gratuitous violence elevates even the shittiest plot. But Zhest amounts to an annoying case of cinematic blue balls. Is a sex scene or at least some tittie action too much to ask for? Apparently so, 'cuz there was none of that either. And that's why the movie was zhest.




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