The Sword Bearer

Dir: Filipp Yankovsky
Star: Artem Tkachenko, Chulpan Khamatova, Leonid Gromov, Aleksej Gorbunov

Sasha (Tkachenko, looking like a Soviet version of Adrian Brody) is a strange kid. Some of this is understandable, given his broken home and abusive stepfather; it certainly might explain his moods, or his temper. But the sword that shoots from his hand when he becomes particularly upset? That's just damn weird. The film chronicles, in a fractured fashion, his upbringing, aimless journey through life, the brief happiness he finds with Katya (Khamatova), a pursuit by the cops and others after he goes to town on Katya's ex-boyfriend, and finally, Sasha's response when she is stripped from his arms and locked up in an insane asylum. Let's just say, the opening scene - the cops discovering a juggernaut which has been sliced, along with its load of timber, completely in two - give you some idea of where this is going.

The film doesn't seem to care much for explanations, and never bothers to explain why Sasha has this mysterious ability. Yankovsky isn't that interested in flashy set-pieces either, which is where this story would have gone in Hollywood (and, truth be told, likely been a bit more entertaining as a result). Here, we hardly ever get to see Sasha use his weapon, only the aftermath - though this can occasionally be more effective, as in the prison scene, I was left wanting more spectactle. Instead, it's a bit too angst-ridden for its own good. The film mostly occupies a sullen, brooding silence, that gets old quickly, especially in a first-half which sometimes borders on the incomprehensibly jumbled. If you can struggle through that, it does improve, once the hero gets some motivation with which the audience can relate, and the visual style on view is generally impressive. I'm not sure I really wanted to see an emo version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine: but if you have such a yearning, here you go.

[October 2010]

Heavily armed
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