Authors Note: First, my apologies- this review was meant to be submitted at an earlier date, just so you know, I feel like a total horse’s arse because this movie has quickly become one of my favourite foreign comedies and it enforces the fact I’m a lousy contributor.
The original “Gentlemen of Fortune” was another take on the comedy species of mistaken identity and comedy of errors from Mother Russia and strangely enough, the director, Aleksandr Seryj who had the original creative conception in his mind, had just been released from prison and a lot of what he learned while doing time inspired a lot of the Russian criminal slang terms in this movie. Art imitates life indeed.
And now, we have the remake directed by Alexander Baranov. Does it live up to what wonderfulness of the original? We’ll see.
An affable young fellow named Treshkin, a children’s entertainer by trade, happens to closely resemble the felon ‘Smiley’ and it is this resemblance that comes in very handy for when Smiley and his crew are arrested for stealing the invaluable armour of the Golden Warrior, but as the police find out, they have hidden it, and since Smiley is in another jail than her comrades, they strike a plan with Treshkin to assume the identity of Smiley in order to find out the location of the helmet from Smiley’s crew. Sounds fair enough, but Treshkin does not exactly have the criminal tongue and thus must learn on his feet when it comes to matters of discourse and criminal etiquette.
When a movie adopts the form of a farce, it is important that the actors and their delivery is played for real otherwise it doesn’t work, and in this movie’s case, this had to be kept in mind at all times otherwise all of Treshkin’s exploits would have fallen flat on it’s face. Comedy is hard to do! Thankfully though, this remake and all behind it still understand this golden rule and displays the madcap right on the wire, with conviction and humanity and it works wonders. Lead actor Sergei Bezrukov has such an easy-going, likeable charm as Treshkin that you can buy him as an ordinary, polite fellow who has been thrust into such an hair-brained scheme by the authorities because not once does he wink or nudge at the camera- he is in the moment and he runs with it with guile and earnest. At the same time, when Bezrukov adopts the persona of the real Smiley, it’s like a lightswitch. It’s flawless. The same can be said for the performances of Smiley’s crew, all of them have distinct personalities and you know who each of them are by the way they look, the things they say and how they act. I wonder if this means of character indentification was in Peter Jacksons’ mind when he made “The Hobbit” when it came to introducing the various dwarves… then again, I can’t say that worked at gangbusters. But anyway.
This is a well-conducted, well-planned film that knows exactly what it is doing, has a cast of talented and memorable actors who are all too willing to take the task by the horns and ride it like a wild bull without ever insulting the audience’s intelligence or under-estimating the material and making it a pantomime. But the most imporant thing is is that is it respectful to the original while still being able to appeal to modern audiences and deliver the laughs and sincerity the original conveyed. I only wish that comedies of this calibre were more available to Western audiences compared to the awful, lacklusture affairs that only riff on contemporary phenomenons that last for fifteen minutes. “Gentlemen of Fortune” (2012) is wholly deserving of it’s showing in the Russian Resurrection Film Festival and if the graces be good, will be released widely for generations old and new to watch, laugh at and enjoy. Highly recommended.
4/5 Confused Treshkins (The only reason why I personally deducted one point is because I had seen the original first so I generally knew what to expect.)
Review written by Bea Harper