Tag Archives: Aleksey Serebryakov

Who Are You, Again?


by Hope Madden

On the surface, this film feels really familiar.

Nobody was written by Derek Kolstad, which should surprise, well, nobody. Kolstad wrote 2014’s John Wick. I assume you’ve seen it: a humble widower is moved to reignite his highly trained assassin’s nature when his dog is in jeopardy.

Kolstad’s next project? Acolyte. What’s that about, I wonder? According to imdb: When his wife is kidnapped, a simple man reveals himself to be anything but as he assembles his old crew to rescue her.

Nobody is exactly every other film Kolstad has ever written, and its execution has all the earmarks of director Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry): precise action and a weird song and dance number.

The one and only thing that separates Nobody from dozens and dozens of expertly crafted, wildly interchangeable “underestimated badass” films is the utter brilliance of its casting.

And by that, I mean exclusively the perfection of Bob Odenkirk in this role.

Every beat is the same. The ideal placement of Sixties Soul classics, the meticulously timed car sequences, the underlying daddy issues, and most of all the struggle between the hero’s natural brutality against the unnatural pull of domesticity—all of it second-by-second constructed as you would expect.

Constructed well. Air tight. Shoot out choreography is like ballet—better than anything in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It’s all interchangeable with every other really well made carbon copy.

But god damn, Bob Odenkirk? I’m not saying he makes this a comedy, but his timing is comic perfection. His placement at the center of the film not only sells the “average guy” masquerade better than Liam Neeson ever could, but it makes his inner struggle and his displays of violence actually stand out.

Regardless of the fact that you’ve seen this exact movie a dozen times, you just don’t expect it. It’s great!

He’s great.

Plus Christopher Lloyd?! Yes, please. And Michael Ironside, who is forever welcome in any role. Connie Nielsen, on the other hand, is—characteristic of the genre—grossly wasted as the wife who’d probably love him more if he showed his badass nature more often.

Aleksey Serebryakov also sells the mad Russiah villain pretty well. There are certain scenes—one climactic across-the-table, in particular—where neither lead conveys the gravity of the situation. I’m not asking for Walken/Hopper in True Romance, but this moment is pivotal and needed to feel like it.

Still, Bob F. Odenkirk. Right on.

Of Whales and Men

Russia’s contender for the Oscar last week is the devastating everyman struggle Leviathan.

The film is so intimate, so generously detailed yet provocatively ambiguous that you can almost overlook the larger metaphorical drama.

Hard drinking hothead Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) finds himself in a losing battle for his own property, a prime piece of beachfront real estate the town’s corrupt mayor wants for his own purposes. Still bullishly optimistic, Kolya calls in a favor from an old army buddy, now a high powered Moscow lawyer. The lawyer has dirt on the mayor, but justice is complicated in Russia.

Director Andrey Zvyaginstev draws wonderfully understated performances from his entire cast. Serebryakov is an aggravatingly empathetic center, profoundly flawed but deeply human. Equal to him is Elena Lyadova as Kolya’s world-wearied, enigmatic wife. And Roman Madyanov is sloppy perfection as the old school Russian thug/politician.

Zvyaginstev’s vision is one of Russia in transition. Old World practices mesh with a current sense of entitlement from the Orthodox Church, and the newly democratic Russia seems to find its footing in the same old place – the throat of the people.

The film is richly allegorical from start to finish. The visual metaphors, in particular, are sometimes heavy but never unintentionally so. Zvyagintsev means to slap the audience now and again with both the overwhelming plight of the Russian everyman, and with his fighting spirit – boozy and bruised, but hard to extinguish.

Cinematographer Mikhail Krishman’s astonishing photography connects the viewer to the rugged beauty of the Russian land, the very earthliness that holds Kolya so firmly. He can trace his attachment to this plot of oceanside property for generations and without it, he’s terrifyingly untethered – a lost soul.

Leviathan is not without humor, and though Kolya’s plight grows overwhelming in biblical proportions, Zvyaginstev refuses to lose sight of the intimate, personal battle that grounds his epic metaphor.

It’s a breathtaking feat of filmmaking.