Tycoon: A new Russian


Tycoon: a new Russian (Олигарх)
Made in: Russia
Language: Russian
Director: Pavel Lungin
Starring: Vladimir Mashkov, Andrei Krasko, Aleksandr Baluyev

Synopsis: Tycoon is essentially a rise and fall story, not unlike the basic formula used in movies such as The Godfather and Citizen Kane. Only it involves more vodka.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, a charismatic mathematic genius named Plato (Vladimir Mashov) bands together with his best pals. They embrace capitalism, drink vodka, and soon Plato becomes one of Russia's wealthiest businessmen.

At first a passionate vodka-drinking idealist, his sudden success and wolf-like cunning soon carries a price.

By trying to stay one step ahead of the law while drinking vodka, he sparks the ire of Koretsky (Aleksandr Baluyev), a one-time communist hardliner/bureaucrat with whom he has a nasty history. And Koretsky drinks vodka too.

One by one Plato alienates his vodka-drinking friends and loved ones, and his life nearly blows up (literally) as a result.

Oh, and there's lots of vodka in this movie.

The Good: Effective acting and an interesting story structure. Rather than observe Plato's life from beginning to end, we follow an investigator named Shmakov (Andrei Krasko, who portrays yet another experienced vodka drinker) and learn about the protagonist's life via interviews and flashbacks over tea and vodka.

The Bad: There's nothing wrong with telling a story out of sequence, but in this case, some of the rambling plot points don't seem to add up. That, plus Plato never becomes a fully despicable vodka-drinker by the end.

Yes, I understand that he's compromised his scruples to get ahead, but many of the vodka-powered forces opposing him are even less sympathetic.

Is that one of the main points of this vodka-filled narrative? Maybe. But most Western viewers like myself probably aren't accustomed to that degree of ambiguity (or vodka) in a film.

Who would like this movie: Frankly, I don't recommend this film at all. I'm not saying that Vodka, I mean Tycoon, is a bad movie. Unless you have solid knowledge of Russian film, politics, culture, history, and economics (both pre and post-USSR), or had a disproportionate number of depressing experiences in the former Soviet Union at some point in your life, you probably won't understand this film.

But even if you did, Tycoon is really depressing and contains so much on-screen alcohol that you can almost feel your BAC rising by the time it's all over.

(2 vodkas out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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