Brother 2 (2000)
Written and directed by Aleksey Balabanov
Produced by Sergey Selyanov, Timothy E. Sabo, Valerie Gobos
Starring Sergey Bodrov, Viktor Sukhorukov, Sergey Makovetskiy, Darya Yurgens, Alexander Diachenko, Kirill Pirogov, Aleksandr Naumov, Ray Toler, Gary Houston, Lisa Jeffrey, Irina Saltykova, Aleksandr Karamnov, Konstantin Murzenko, Konstantin Zheldin, Tatyana Zakharova
In Moscow, opportunity knocks repeatedly as vice at the door of casual hitman Danila (Bodrov), who beds a pop star (Saltykova, playing herself), then with his maniacal, boozing brother Viktor (Sukhorukov) evades and combats gangsters charged by a laundering banker (Makovetskiy) while investigating the dispossession of a fellow Army veteran’s twin brother (both Diachenko), an NFL player for the Chicago Blackhawks. These siblings separate in the United States: Danila experiences cross-cultural shock in Brighton Beach of NYC where he buys CDs at a secondhand shop and a lemon of a Cadillac, befriends another chummy trucker (Toler) and feasts on a colossal cheeseburger en route to Chicago, seduces a cutely toothy, leggy news reporter (Jeffrey), takes a beating from before ambuscading a pimp and his thugs to rescue a Russian streetwalker (Yurgens) from her meretricious rut, and slowly tracks down the underhanded Chicagoan investor (Houston) who’s mulcting his buddy’s brother; meanwhile, Viktor parties, whores, and outmaneuvers moronic Ukrainian mobsters from whom he’s drawing fire. What a vacation!
Most of his characterizations are broad and stereotypical in contradistinction to Bodrov’s righteous, ruthless, ruminant hero, but the binational ambition manifest in Balabanov’s sequel is undeniable. Danila espouses and exhibits integrity, initiative and invention as the exemplary New Russian braving two maliferous cities, who reprobates a glutted superpower in decline sharded with broken dreams. According with popular Russian attitudes, this movie is explicitly, conditionally anti-black, anti-American, and anti-Ukrainian (it’s been banned in the world’s most extortionate puppet state since 2015!). Bodrov’s famous line paraphrases Nevsky: “strength is in truth” — a repudiation of aggrandized avarice denouncing a deranged empire fueled by war and debt.
His prowess for shooting stunts and procedures improved significantly in a few years, redounding to Balabanov’s sharper style.
Comparably, Sergey Astakhov’s photography isn’t so dingy the second time around; figures therein are saliently silhouetted against urban backgrounds.
Ingenuously charming, troglodytically handsome, born to wear cozy sweaters, Bodrov was post-Soviet Russia’s unheralded answer to Belmondo, and dourly epitomized his generation’s masculinity. He’s both foil and lead by underplaying his noble assassin, and no one’s more entertaining than Sukhorukov as his dissolute, flagitious big brother. For her harsh lineaments and harsher demeanor, shaved Yurgens’s whorish portrayal is uncomfortably on the mark. No such praise can be paid to Saltykova, who’s here by her stardom. Most of the Americans are amusingly hammy, particularly Jeffrey, who’s as lankily toothsome as Toler is earthily benignant.
Only one song (in two versions) by Nautilus Pompilius is heard on this soundtrack, which is nevertheless bountiful with catchy tracks by Bi-2, Vyacheslav Butusov, Saltykova, Okean Elzy, Sergei Bobunets, Zemfira, Chicherina, AuktsYon, Smyslovyye gallyutsinatsii, Splin, Agata Kristi, Vadim Samoylov, Tantsy Minus, Krematoriy, Masha i medvedi, Sleeping for Sunrise, and La Mansh. Enjoyment of these contributions is wholly dependent on any listener’s taste for popular music from Russia and some of its former Soviet satellites.
- An automotive chase and firefight through backroads of Moscow is ably staged.
- A montage of Danila’s trip from New York to Illinois relays his introduction to American culture.
- At a construction site, Danila fashions a firearm from whittled wood, sawn pipes, and matchsticks.
- A rampage is superbly shot from Danila’s point of view as an homage to first-person shooters.
- Confabulation between Russian compatriots verbalizes Russocentric consensus, asperities that enmire expatriates, and a bit of wisdom.
Sequels that sate are rare enough, but this droll, exciting, smartly plotted continuation of his epochal crime drama proves that Balabanov had enough gimmicks and intercultural insights to please his audience again on a trim budget.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The American Friend, Rainy Dog, or Brother.