Jun 15, 2014

Review: Tueur à gages [Killer] (1998)

Almaty, Kazakhstan is not the place to be if you're looking to strike it rich. Tueur à gages is set in what was once Kazakhstan's capital and director Darezhan Omirbaev makes it clear that the region is severely depressed. Only 6 years removed from declaring independence from Soviet Russia, the people seem to simply accept their glum reality.

Putting a desperate character in an impossible situation easily makes for an interesting movie. Main character Marat has his back against the wall and Omirbaev only uses 80 minutes to tell his story. It feels right though, there's just no time wasted on needless scenes.


Genre: action, crime, thriller
Directed by: Darezhan Omirbayev
Produced by: Joël Farges, Elise Jalladeau, Gaziz Shaldybayev, etc.
Written by: Darezhan Omirbayev, Limara Zjeksembajeva
Music by: N/A
Running time: 80 minutes
Production company: Artcam International, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Development & Cooperation Bureau, etc.
Distributed by: Celluloid Dreams, Cinema Epoch, Les Films du Paradoxe
Country: Kazakhstan, France
Language: Russian
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Talgat Assetov, Roksana Abouova




Marat (Talgat Assetov) has a job as a chauffeur. He's married and his wife has just given birth. A moment of inattentiveness while driving causes him to crash into the back of a flagship Mercedes-Benz, with him clearly being at fault. Marat doesn't protest at all. Instead, he relies on shady characters to front him the money at high interest rates which inevitably will cause trouble down the road.


Talgat Assetov plays Marat as a man who just accepts his fate. He hits the Benz and agrees right away with the other driver that he is to blame. (Spoilers) He goes through several beatings as well and it can be pretty much assumed that he took them without too much of a fight. That's because Omirbaev likes to utilize jump cuts so you never actually see Marat getting beaten up. You just see him calmly cleaning himself up and moving on. (End Spoilers)

Tueur à gages is trimmed of any kind of cinematic fat. It's grey, cold and hopeless. There's no film score and Omirbaev takes his time, letting his camera linger at the right times. There's no attempt at dressing this film up, it just it what it is. Tueur à gages is never especially tense but I don't think that was the intention. As a viewer you're just left empty.

This is Omirbaev's third full-length effort and it was worthy of a Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes which is to encourage young talent. Tueur à gages is amazing in the way that it can garner a response with such simple production. I really doubt that there was much of a crew filming this but it looks so much better than its humble origins. It definitely deserves a bigger audience than it has had over its lifetime.



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