"Cargo 200," the latest film from Russian filmmaker Aleksei Balabanov ("Of Freaks and Men"), is a relentlessly dark yet pointed comedy set in pre-Perestroika Russia.
The sort of film that stays with you long after the credits have rolled, "Cargo 200" continues Balabanov's long history of challenging the Russian political system in ways morbidly funny and revealing.
The film largely centers around Capt. Zhurov (Alexei Poluyan), a power hungry police captain who lives with his drunk as a skunk mother (Valentina Andryukova)in a rather dreary apartment not that far from the more isolated shack of local moonshiner Alexei (Alexei Serebryakov) and his wife (Natalya Akimova).
When the drunken Valera (Leonid Bichevin), one of the area's restless teens, shows up at Alexei's to purchase more grain alcohol with Angelika, the attractive teen daughter of a local official, the stage is set for Balabanov's disturbing look at Russia's imbalance of power and how the cycle continues from generation to generation.
Capt. Zhurov seems to be constantly lurking, and sets his sights on the vulnerable Angelika once Valera has passed out and left her to fend for herself at the isolated shack. In a series of increasingly absurd crimes, Zhurov kidnaps the girl and subsequently keeps her chained to a bed while Zhurov's oblivious mother remains clueless.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film in World Cinema at the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival, "Cargo 200" is the type of film you leave the theatre thinking "Ehhh. That was okay" until days later when the film remains in your mind and the images suddenly start making sense.
Tech credits are solid and Balabanov perfectly incorporates a variety of Russian music into the score ranging from traditional folk to contemporary heavy metal. The film's ensemble cast is excellent, most notably Poluyan as Capt. Zhurov and the quietly ambitious Bichevin as Valera.
With a title taken from the code name for dead soldiers arriving back home from the war in Afghanistan, "Cargo 200" plays smoothly with intense political insights and progressive social statements lying just underneath the surface waiting to be absorbed.