#5 - JRL 7225
Film review: 'Tycoon: A New Russian'
June 16, 2003
By Richard James Havis
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Director Pavel Lounguine plays it refreshingly straight in this tough-talking gangster saga set in the Russia of Boris Yeltsin.
Longuine ("Taxi Blues," "The Wedding") avoids the irony and genre games that often characterize contemporary gangster films. Instead, he constructs a serious story that is part psychological analysis, part social critique and part hard-hitting actioner. The result, titled "Tycoon: A New Russian" for American release, would sit nicely between "The Godfather" and "The Public Enemy" on any crime lover's movie shelf.
It's a gripping film with a crystal-clear story line and should have no trouble attracting a specialized urban audience. If marketing plays down the politics in favor of frequent bouts of sharp and strong violence, it could also gain a second lease on life in video stores.
The story, inspired by the life of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, begins in the last years of Gorbachev's rule. Plato Makovski (Vladimir Mashkov), a charismatic academic, surveys the chaos of the last years of communism and decides that there's more money to be made in big business than mathematical equations.
Plato dives straight into the murky, corrupt world of Moscow business, dragging some fellow academics along with him. The gang quickly joins with a businessman from Georgia who has powerful underworld connections. This combination of brain and brawn soon makes Plato and Co. the richest men in Yeltsin's Russia. Limos and country estates accumulate until high-level Russian politicians start demanding a cut of the profits from Plato's semilegal schemes.
Like all good gangster sagas, "Tycoon" succeeds because it pays attention to both the epic sweep of history and small details of individual lives. Essentially, it's a character study. The film begins as a police investigation into Plato's assassination, then flashes back to the various events that lead up to it. Each flashback purports to tell the viewer something about the "real" Plato.
This structure gives a lot of work to actor Mashkov, and he deals with it admirably. Plato is many things: a charmer, a financial wizard, an opportunist and a brutal killer. Mashkov -- most recently seen here as the villain in "Behind Enemy Lines" -- is mercurial, flitting seamlessly between types to create a perfectly believable character. Mashkov charms the audience the way Plato does his victims, and it's impossible not to root for his character, in spite of his sophisticated thuggery.
As for the big picture, director Lounguine doesn't shrink from showing the complexities of the power setup in post-communist Russia. The script by Lounguine with Alexandre Borodianski and Yuli Dubov makes the who and what of the various factions clear without oversimplifying them.
The gangster drama, like the Western, is generally considered to have run its course. But "Tycoon" shows that the changing world abroad throws up a wealth of new and interesting material for the genre.
A CDP, Arte France Cinema, France 2 Cinema, Gimages Films, Network Movie, ZDF/Arte Magnat, Kominter, STV co-production.
Cast: Plato: Vladimir Mashkov; Chmakov: Andrei Krasko; Maria: Maria Mironova; Viktor: Sergei Oshkevich.
Director: Pavel Lounguine; Screenwriters: Alexandre Borodianski, Pavel Lounguine, Yuli Dubov; Adapted from the novel by: Yuli Dubov; Producers: Cathern Dussart, Vladimir Grigoriev; Associate producer: Galina Semtsova; Directors of photography: Alexey Federov, Oleg Dobronravov; Music: Leonid Diesyatnikov; Sound: Alain Curvelier; Editor: Sophie Brunet.