Redemption Street (Ustanička Ulica): Saravejo Review
Superior Serbian debut turns recent history into hard-hitting legal drama.
SARAJEVO -- Rooted in the still-raw horrors of recent history, Redemption Street turns a provincial story of post-war guilt and revenge into a glossy action thriller with potentially global appeal. A punchy dramatization of ongoing war crimes investigations into the bitter ethnic conflicts which tore the former Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s, it has the slick production values and nail-biting tension of upscale suspense shows such as 24, The Killing or Homel and. Miroslav Terzić’s debut dramatic feature made its international debut at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week, where co-star Uliks Fehmui won the Best Actor prize.
The bilingual opening credits, in both English and Serbian, suggest the makers of Redemption Streeth ave international ambitions. The presence of local screen superstar Rade Šerbedžija, a kind of Balkan Gene Hackman, may even help draw foreign viewers who know him from his recurring role in 24plus minor appearances in the Batman, Harry Potter and X-Men franchises. Subtitled action thrillers are a tough sell, but this is a superior genre piece that deserves a broader audience beyond domestic markets.
Gordan Kičić, who also has a story and producer credit, stars as Dušan, a deputy prosecutor on Serbia’s war crimes commission in Belgrade. A rising star with a pregnant wife and ambitions to prove himself to his law-professor father, Dušan pesters his boss (Šerbedžija) into trusting him with a juicy case, tracking down fugitive ex-members of a notorious paramilitary death squad responsible for a trail of brutal massacres during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. But the case proves deeper and darker than he was expecting, shaking too many skeletons from the post-war closet, exposing himself and his family to violent men with powerful political connections.
Although Redemption Street marks Terzić’s dramatic debut, he has long experience working on commercials, which shows in the film’s slick and confident visual style. He shoots contemporary Belgrade in a stylishly color-drained palette, 50 shades of somber brown and frosty blue. The spectrum only warms up in recurring interludes of flickering super-8 home-movie footage, which initially suggest idyllic memories of a summery childhood, but cleverly turn out to be something more subtle and touching.
In cinematic terms, the Balkan wars have so far provided rich material for somber art-house dramas, most recently Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey and Aida Begić’s Djeca: Children of Sarajevo. But Kičić and Terzić have smartly realized that these recent historical traumas also adapt well to the crime investigation format, with its buried secrets and murky allegiances. Particularly strong is an understated abduction scene, all the more chilling for being wordless and devoid of detail.
The script is not without its genre clichés: corruption in high places, the ill-tempered boss with divided loyalties, marital tensions that arise when a case becomes too personal, the rookie prosecutor who oversteps his powers and has to turn in his badge. But these are minor, forgivable niggles. Because Redemption Street is a rattling good thriller grounded in real, raw, human tragedy.
Venue: Sarajevo film festival screening, July 12
Production company: Filmkombajn, Pakt Media
Cast: Gordan Kičić, Uliks Fehmui, Rade Šerbedžija, Jelena Dokić, Petar Božović, Predrag Ejdus
Director: Miroslav Terzić
Writers: Dorde Milosavlević, Nikola Pejavokić
Producer: Gordan Kičić
Cinematography: Miladin Colaković
Editor: Desan Urošević
Sales company: Fortissimo Films
Rating TBC, 97 minutes
(Release date: TBC)