Synopsis: ‘Russia 88’ is a gang of fascist skinheads who roam the streets filming themselves being a right bunch of racist twats.
Continuing the filmic trend for charismatic psychos followed by sensation-seeking camera operators, Russia 88 successfully uses the mock-doc aesthetic to deliver its derivative but engaging narrative. Following in the footsteps of Man Bites Dog, The Magician and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Petr Fyodorov plays Shtik, an angry, ranting lunatic who just loves having an admirer film his every move. Though not as memorable as Edward Norton, Stephen Graham or Russell Crowe’s terrifying performances as Nazi thugs, Fyodorov holds the movie being reminiscent of Colin Farrel’s early appearance in Tigerland.
While the pace lags at times due to the minimal plot, the last act of the film veers into predictable but vaguely silly territory after building up a strong sense of realism in the rest of the film. The handheld camera and other traits of the mock-doc format such as the voxpops with (real?) members of the public, direct address to camera and seemingly unedited material give the film a powerful feeling of watching the footage of a bunch of rhetoric spouting racist thugs keen to share their life and views with the world via the internet.
Like an anti-American History X, the film uses no fancy tricks like excessive slow-mo, black and white or orchestral and choir filled music, making the film feel more real and closer in tone and style to This is England. However there are also moments of humour (mainly in the first half of the film) where the mock-doc style is used to undermine and humiliate these characters who take themselves too seriously.
Briefly touching on what turns young men into Nazi’s, the film comes up with one or two interesting (if not very surprising) answers. The scene in a training camp may be a reminder of the hatred and indoctrination that is spawned in other training camps around the world and the use of voxpops and the constant references to the footage being put on the internet make this a very contemporary spin on the skinhead psycho cycle.
Overall, Russia 88 is filled with realistic detail but tries too hard to create a powerful and shocking ‘movie’ ending that feels out of place with the rest of the ‘documentary’ style. However Bardin may be a director to watch out for in the future.