Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wild Eastern: Alien Girl

Though she has no dragon tattoo, Angela (a.k.a. Alien) is definitely cut from the same cloth as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. Nicknamed in honor of the Alien film franchise launched by Ridley Scott, Angela is not exactly the victim she first appears to be in Anton Bormatov’s Alien Girl (not completely sfw trailer here), a selection of the recently concluded 2010 Russian Film Week, which opens theatrically in New York this Friday.

Rasp is a malevolent, middle-aged crack-head gangster with a problem. A captured underling is imminently expected to cut a deal with the law. Needing a fast trump card, Rasp dispatches a team of hired muscle to retrieve the former henchman’s sister, whom the crime-lord banished to the Prague underworld. Ironically, Angela is actually glad when they arrive, liberating her from her predatory abductor. She is even happier to discern how susceptible the young and relatively innocent “Whiz” will be to her charms.

As a post-post-Communist “Wild Eastern,” Alien is already retro. Whether the name is Rasp or Putin, the gangsters have long since won the war. The game is fixed—the only question is who is playing whom. Indeed, the film feels decidedly fatalist, even by Russian standards.

Gritty to a fault, Alien looks like cinematographers Dmitri Kuvshinov and Anastasiy Michailov shot it on vintage Soviet era film well past its expiration date. Still, it fits the film’s grungy milieu. Unfortunately, despite a few flashes of exploitation panache, there are few surprises in store for viewers, with Sergey Sokolyuk’s screenplay cursorily glossing over considerable plot developments.

Natalia Romanycheva certainly is not shy as the title character. In fact, she makes a decent femme fatale, but it is Eugene Mundun who really smacks down an impression as the creepy, serpentine Rasp. He is a great movie villain, which is why it is disappointing we never really get a satisfying face-off between them.

Though Alien has the self-consciously hip spirit of a host of Tarantino imitators, perhaps the most ironic aspect of the film is the list of production companies sharing screen credits: “Red Square,” “Profit,” and “Fox International.” Despite the strength of its anti-hero and her antagonist, the connecting story falls oddly flat. For hardboiled Russophiles, it opens this Friday (12/17) at the Village East.