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A hateful, xenophobic young sociopath called Danila Bagrov returns home from his stint in the First Chechen War, where he claims he had some kind of office job and never saw battle. His mother sends him off to live in St. Petersburg with his brother. However, in Danila's absence his brother has become a murderous career criminal (like everybody else in a Russian movie that takes place shortly after the fall of the USSR). Danila then proceeds to work through the identity issues of young Russian men following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the new global culture by killing ethnic minorities for money.
Became a cult hit in Russia for all the wrong reasons. Although the mood is pretty different - it's more of a sepia-toned cinema verite type deal - for some reason people like to compare it to a more reptillian Tarantino, without the sense of light-heartedness and fun.
It's got some valuable social commentary about ugly issues Russians were dealing with at the time, in particular the difficulty of defining your community and culture after the sudden overwhelming Western influence and the cessation of Communism and Russification, and in general is a very accurate portrayal of St. Petersburg in the nineties. If you're into that kind of thing. If not, some of the dialogue is kind of funny and it has entertaining violence.
- Bilingual Bonus - At one point Danila is giving a Kubrick Stare to a non-Russophone "American" (who's happily chatting away on his cell phone) and basically telling him that he wishes he could single-handedly genocide every person in his culture. If you speak English and/or French you know that the guy is actually talking in French, but Danila doesn't seem to notice or care. It's also pretty amusing that during this scene the legendarily abysmal eurodance anthemn Max, Don't Have Sex With Your Ex starts playing. The lyrics are so stupid that if you don't temporarily think that Danila might have a point in hating all of Western culture (at least for the duration of the song), your eardrums were probably removed at birth. This was probably on purpose, especially since Danila's fascination with very Russian art rock groups like Nautilus Pompilius and DDT (as opposed to the shallow imported dance pop stuff that people stereotypically prefer in Russia today) is something of a plot point.
- Black and Gray Morality
- The Cameo: Several Russian rock musicians as themselves.
- Faux Affably Evil: Krugly loves silly poems and Russian proverbs.
- Gun Porn: Two very detailed scenes with Danila customising his weapons.
- Heroic Sociopath - Danila. See also
Psycho for HireNineties Anti-Hero.
- Instant Death Bullet: Averted. People dies slowly and painfully.
- The Mafiya
- The New Russia - Examined in detail. Specifically the "Russian nineties" version.
- Pocket Protector: Danila's CD player
- The Three Faces of Eve - The Maiden is represented by the latest type of Russian girl who speaks some English and loves Mc Donald's and getting stoned, the Mother Sveta is the traditional self-sacrificing Russian wife (if you've read anything by Dostoevsky, you've seen this trope), and Danila's aged mother, who lives in the past and is blissfully unaware of her sons' new careers (and by implication the whole situation of post-Soviet Russia), is the Crone.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted in the original but played straight in the sequel. Danila spares both the crimeboss who, as he thinks, ordered to kill his wartime friend (he didn't but Danila couldn't know that) and the American Bad Boss of said friend's twin brother (who basically kept him as slave) while having absolutely no problem with shooting down their underlings. The fact that they were trying to kill him probably helped though.
- Why We're Bummed Communism Fell
- Wretched Hive - Horribly enough. Russia actually was something like this in the period of lawlessness that bridged the gap between the collapse of the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin's reforms in the 2000s.