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DVD Review: CARGO 200


Studio: Disinformation
Year: 2007
Cast: Alexey Serebryakov, Leonid Gromov, Yuri Stepanov, Agniya Kuznetsova, Leonid Bichevin, Alexsei Poluyan
Director: Alexey Balabanov
Release Date: April 29, 2009, 5:47 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, graphic violence, nudity, strong sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:25m:45s

ìValera Buadze ñ half Georgian, though Iíve never been there.î - Valera Buadze (Leonid Bichevin)

CARGO 200
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There isn't exactly a ton of Russian black comedies to choose from these days, but this one looks pretty good.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: D

Cargo 200 has the most deceptive DVD packaging Iíve seen in quite some time. The image on the front cover makes it look like weíre in for a political film centering on a riotous revolution of some kind and the plot description on the back sells the film as a totally different experience than what we actually get. Fortunately, such deception is a good thing in this case, as I felt totally sucker punched when the filmís true intentions are revealed. The undercurrent of the film is an anti-Russian one, but director Aleksey Balabanov (Brother), is more concerned about making his audience feel as uncomfortable as possible when they least expect it. Thank goodness for filmmakers who arenít afraid to do such a thing.

As the film starts, the plot seems to center on themes of morality and science, as argued about by Artem (Leonid Gromov), a Professor of Scientific Atheism, and his Army Colonel brother, Mikhail (Yuri Stepanov). Even when Artem leaves Mikhailís house and is forced to stop at a distillery thanks to a broken-down car, the film is still rather ìnormal,î and almost dull at this point. Weíre then introduced to Anjelika (Agniya Kuznetsova) and Valera (Leonid Bichevin), the best friend and boyfriend of Mikhailís daughter, respectively. Those two wind up at the same distillery, but when Valera passes out, Anjelika wishes she was lucky enough to have done the same.

The real mastery in Balabanovís storytelling technique is how he nearly lulls us to sleep in the beginning, and, after a half hour or so, weíre still trying to figure out what his filmís identity truly is. Then, things start to change, including the tone and we start to realize that we just might be in for something that David Lynch would be more than proud of. Then, it happens; a scene that not only changes the film all over again, but leaves any and all viewers with a shocked expression on their face that never leaves. Even the most shocking movies tend to have that one, ìWhat the hell?î sequence, but here, they just keep coming, and from totally out of the blue each and every time. Even more shocking is the revelation of Capt. Zhurovís (Alexsei Poluyan) true colors, as he gradually becomes one of the most terrifying characters in recent memory.

Thereís no question that many of the disturbing sequences in this movie will stick you for quite some time, and thatís a very good thing. What is in question is how many of these sequences are supposed to be interpreted with the blackest forms of comedy in mind. I, for one, didnít see any such humor in these proceedings, and they were that much more effective on a personal level. Still, I wouldnít be surprised at all if other viewers saw that black comedy, if only a tinge, and that is a testament to just how much of a masterpiece this truly is. If I see another film from any country this year that has such a profound, shocking, and nightmare-inducing effect on me than Cargo 200, itís going to be a banner year for movies.

While the film simply has to be seen by anyone who considers themselves an open-minded filmgoer, this disc is a huge disappointment, despite decent audio and video presentations. Itís bad enough that this film isnít getting a chance in domestic theaters, but itís even worse that we donít get a single extra feature on Disinformationís DVD. Hereís hoping it becomes a cult classic and it gets the special edition treatment it deserves at some point down the line.

Chuck Aliaga April 29, 2009, 5:47 pm