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As Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson have so effectively proven, being of a certain age is no impediment to action-movie stardom. Unfortunately, Gerard Depardieu doesn’t enter that pantheon with Philippe Martinez‘s ludicrous Russia-set thriller, which seems mainly designed to provide work for the veteran French actor in his new country of citizenship. The story of an ex-con intent on seeking revenge for the murder of his son at the hands of Russian mobsters, Viktor would be campy fun if it weren’t so relentlessly tedious.
Depardieu, age 65 and looking like he can barely move due to his massive girth, plays the title role of the father newly released from a French prison after serving a seven-year stint for art theft. He returns to Moscow, where he has a mysterious past that’s frequently hinted at, to track down the culprits with the aid of his best friend and former partner-in-crime Souliman (Eli Danker), now a renowned ballet choreographer, and his former lover Alexandra (Elizabeth Hurley), the glamorous owner of a Russian nightclub. Already guilt-ridden over not having seen his son for so many years, Viktor’s emotions intensify even further when he’s informed by his son’s girlfriend (Polina Kuzminskaya) that he’s shortly to become a grandfather.
The ensuing convoluted plotline finds Viktor and his cohorts tangling with an assemblage of Russian bad guys who, in time-honored international thriller tradition, all speak English with heavy accents. That he will get the better of them is signaled by his use of such catchphrase-ready pronouncements as “I’m an old-school kind of guy” and, in a moment reminiscent of Neeson’s taunting phone calls in the Taken films, “I just wanted you to hear the voice of the man who’s going to kill you.” The screenplay’s dialogue is similarly old-school, with one of the villains actually commanding his henchmen, with a straight face, “Deliver me his head!”
Despite its requisite car chases, shootouts and torture sequences — at one point Viktor casually enjoys a nice dinner of juicy steak and red wine while his tied-up victim looks on anxiously — the film is relentlessly tedious when it’s not being laughable. The latter aspect is exemplified by the supposed romantic relationship between the morbidly obese Depardieu and the gorgeous Hurley, whose adoring gazes toward her co-star demonstrate that her acting abilities have perhaps been underestimated.
The film at least looks good, with Martinez providing a virtual travelogue of Moscow locations so gorgeously photographed that the film could well serve as a promotional video for the Russian tourist industry. The intended heartwarming coda even includes an extended ballet sequence featuring an adorable little boy that’s only missing the information as to how to procure tickets.
Production companies: B-Tween, Kapara Pictures, Baboushka
Cast: Gerard Depardieu, Elizabeth Hurley, Eli Danker, Denis Karasyov, Marcello Mazzarella, Evgeniya Akhremenko, Polina Kuzminskaya
Director-screenwriter: Philippe Martinez
Producer: Arnaud Frilley
Director of photography: Jean-Francois Hensgens
Production designer: Igor Tryshko
Costume designer: Gyulya Beyshenova
Editor: Thomas Fernandez
Composers: Frederic Dunis, Sebastien Lagniez
Casting director: Ella Skovorodina
No MPAA rating, 97 minutes
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