Monday, January 20, 2014

Sundance movie four: Notorious indeed.

Part of the production team including
Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin
First, this review is compromised.  The screening didn't start until 9:45 and I'd had a long and busy day.  So I'll admit it, I occasionally nodded off during the film.  And when most of the language featured in the film is Russian, nodding off means you're not reading the subtitles. Which means you're missing a lot of what's going on. (By the way, I heard a woman in line the following day who had also been at the screening and complained that she couldn't stop falling asleep. So I wasn't the only one.) The fact that I found it difficult to stay awake doesn't speak well to excitement of The Notorious Mr. Bout from filmmakers Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin.

The movie tells the story of Viktor Bout, a Russian man who is a crafty character that ends up making a lot of money doing everything from dealing arms to transporting all manner of stuff as an airline tycoon.  He goes from rags to riches and then ultimately ends up in a US prison. He documents his own story with video he shot himself. In fact, most of this movie is video shot by Mr. Bout.  That makes the movie both interesting and annoying.  The story is surprisingly real because of the raw nature of the footage.  But that raw footage amounts to a lot of bad home movies, shot on equipment that's old enough it can sometimes be tedious, even uncomfortable to watch.  I don't think the filmmakers helped the situation by adding consistent visual noise to the tapes.  I understand the reasoning behind doing it; to try and bring a level of uniformity to the movie.  But in the end, I think the noise made the movie less watchable.

Viktor Bout is a shady character.  This movie is interesting in that it makes the case that Mr. Bouts decades' long incarceration in the US might be unfair considering most of what he did was perfectly legal.  I think they made the case convincingly. But I don't think they made the case from a literary perspective.  Because while Viktor Bout may have acted legally, is motivations still came across as then than honorable.  But with all the recent about the intense corruption surrounding the upcoming Olympics in Russia, Bout may have just been engaged in business as usual.

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