Karlovy Vary Film Review: ‘The Bull’

Variety | 7/1/2019 | Jessica Kiang
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Boris Akopov’s feature debut “The Bull” announces in serious text at the outset that it is based on a true story. But the film unfolds along such formulaic lines, from its arc of gritty tragedy to its use of counterpointing pop tracks over vivid scenes of violence, that life, in this scuzzy Russian suburb in 1997, appears to have imitated art — specifically Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” but you can throw in most of the gangster and mafia movies of the late ’70s and ’80s, too. It follows the very brief rise and long, bloody, betrayal-ridden fall of a roving gang of Muscovite malchicks, under the leadership of the handsome, stuttering Anton (Yuri Borisov). Or at least it probably does: The compellingly staged, well-performed action is, for the English-speaking viewer, buried underneath such atrocious subtitling that it is difficult to be sure.

When we meet him, Anton aka “Bull” — a nickname/play on his surname that he got in prison — is ginning up his crew of buzz-cut, bovver-booted hoodlums, many of whom he’s known since childhood, for a clash with a rival gang. Akopov, along with DP Gleb Filatov, shoots excitingly, with a canny eye for the brute choreography of the groin kick and the clothesline-knockout, but the fight is complicated when his little sister Anya (Afina Kondrashova) shows up. Anton fires a gun to disperse the melee, the police arrive, and he is arrested. However Anton’s thug star is in the ascendent: He has caught the attention of a local kingpin, and so he is released after some strings are pulled — strings that are, however, very much attached to a big job the crime lord wants Anton’s crew to handle.

Karlovy - Vary - Film - Review - Bull

Karlovy Vary Film Review: 'The Bull'

It gets slightly botched, but nevertheless for a short time Bull and his boys are riding...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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