Tycoon: A New Russian

A charismatic, ruthless entrepreneur plunders the post-perestroika, post-Soviet economy and builds an illicit personal empire in this GODFATHER-like crime epic. The film starts with the assassination-by-rocket of billionaire Platon Makovski (Russian star Vladimir Mashkov) — a Russian-made rocket, one rival notes, grimly pleased that his country can still...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A charismatic, ruthless entrepreneur plunders the post-perestroika, post-Soviet economy and builds an illicit personal empire in this GODFATHER-like crime epic. The film starts with the assassination-by-rocket of billionaire Platon Makovski (Russian star Vladimir Mashkov) — a Russian-made rocket, one rival notes, grimly pleased that his country can still do something right. Dogged veteran cop Chmakov (Andrei Krasko), widely dismissed as a provincial plodder, is determined to ferret out the guilty parties even as an obvious cover-up kicks into gear. The film then flashes back and forth between the days following Platon's death and the 15 turbulent years during which he and his friends — mathematician Viktor (Sergei Oshkevich), childhood buddy Moussa (Alexandre Samoilenko), devoted Mark (Mikael Vasserbaum) and steely Georgian entrepreneur Larry (Levani Uchaineshvili) — built their empire. Platon's strategy, heartless and brilliant, was to exploit every bureaucratic loophole and back-door opportunity in the free-for-all of Russia's deregulated marketplace, obscenely enriching himself and his inner circle while ordinary Russians — stripped of their meager but dependable state salaries, pensions and social services — struggled to survive. Along the way, Platon accrues a formidable collection of business rivals, personal enemies, shady associates and discarded friends, any one or combination of whom might have killed him. Kremlin bigwig Koretski (Alexandre Baluev), who hates Platon both for seducing his wife, Maria (Maria Mironova), and for embodying a vulgar brand of gangster capitalism, emerges as a prime suspect. Chmakov pursues him vigorously, even though the pervasive culture of corruption within which the investigation is being conducted ensures that Koretski is the least likely candidate to actually pay for any wrong doing. Russian-born director Pavel Lounguine (formerly Lungin) and Yuly Dubov adapted Tycoon's screenplay from Dubov's Bolshaya Paika ("The Big Slice"), a roman a clef chronicling the rise and fall of a character suspiciously like notorious robber baron Boris Berezovsky. (Businessman Berezovsky, Dubov's former boss, once sued Forbes magazine for calling him the "Godfather of the Kremlin.") The story's general outline is familiar, but with a sadly cynical twist: While THE GODFATHER's subversive theme is that organized crime is the dark twin of American business, the similarity here is a given — Platon is a businessman with the scruples of a mafioso. The flashback structure drains the story of momentum, but Mashkov and Uchaineshvili portray the reptilian glamour of cultured thugs with frightening intensity.

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