The Alien Girl

Apologies for the lack of subtitles

The Alien Girl (чужая)
Made in: Russia
Language: Russian, Czech
Director: Anton Bormatov
Based on the graphic novel by: Vladimir Nesterenko
Starring: Natalia Romanycheva, Evgeni Tkachuk, Kirill Poluhin, Evgeny Mundun, Anatoli Otradnov, Oleg Baykulov
Year: 2010

Synopsis: First off, don't let the English title of this film mislead you. This is not a science fiction thriller about some extra-terrestrial babe. Instead, it's a dark gangster story that takes place in the Ukraine during the early 1990s.

The Soviet Union is no more, Ukraine is trying to sort itself out, and organized crime is a problem.

A violent gangster nicknamed Babai (Aleksandr Golubkov) is arrested after gunning down some rivals. While being roughed up by the authorities, his boss, nicknamed Raspen (Evgeny Mundun) fears that Babai will break under interrogation and name their organization in a series of crimes.

Raspen then sends "Kid" (Kirill Poluhin), one of his most trusted lieutenants, to find Babai's sister, Angela (Natalia Romanycheva) and bring her back. The idea of having Angela in custody of the crime boss not only ensures that the cops won't find her, but is a further incentive for Babai to keep his mouth shut if he doesn't want anything to happen to her.

Angela is hiding out in Prague, and is in some pretty seedy company. So Kid and a few of his young flunkies, a couple of dumb thugs who include Jenya, (Evgeni Tkachuk) aka "Whiz," and "Beef" (Antoli Otradnov), head to the Czech Republic to carry out their task.

But the simple job of finding and then bringing back the young woman gets complicated (the presence of other gangsters notwithstanding). Angela turns out to be an unpredictable, manipulative character who's no stranger to murder.

An alluring femme fatale, she uses sex as a weapon and turns the thugs against each other. Having a nasty history with Raspen's crime syndicate, Angela comes up with a brutal plot of her own, and sets her sights on turning the naïve Jenya into a willing accomplice.

The Good: The Alien Girl is a tightly written thriller with a solid cast. Whether intentional or not, it contains and makes good use of dark elements seen in the American film noir genre.

Natalia Romanycheva does a great job as the deceptive Angela, and the overall grim atmosphere effectively mirrors the social and economic instability of the time. Once the story and action get going, it stays focused and draws the viewer in as the dastardly plot culminates.

The Bad: The Alien Girl is not a happy movie at all. One could argue that there are no characters to root for or any sense of redemption once the final credits start rolling. And towards the end, it's a little hard to keep track of some of the peripheral characters who drive important plot points.

And finally, I think the version I saw might have been cut for American audiences. I think seeing the complete director's cut (if there is one) would have been more helpful.

Who would like this film: The Alien Girl is for you if you like foreign films, dark, gritty gangster movies, and film noir.

There's a lot of unapologetic violence, brutality, drug use, and ugly cars, so stay away if that's not your thing. And although it's kind of predictable, it's definitely well constructed, well acted, and the story moves at a good pace.

I don't think you'll sympathize with any of the characters, but interestingly enough, I find that to be one of the film's strengths. A lot of awful people do some really awful things to each other. And as the horrible consequences pile up, I think the audience can somehow be assured, that at the very least, they're happening to people who deserve it.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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