“You bitches will answer to me for Sevastopol!”
Brother 2 (Brat 2) is the follow up film to 1997’s Brother (Brat). Both films are directed by Aleksey Balabanov and star Sergei Bodrov Jr in the leading role of Danila Bagrov. Sergei Bodrov Jr was tragically killed during a glacier slide in the Caucacus in 2002. What a tragic loss to his family and to Russian cinema as this actor certainly had a great career ahead of him.
Brother 2 (Brat 2) begins with Danila (Bodrov), along with two other Russian army veterans Ilya (Kirill Pirogov) and Kostya (Alexander Dyachenko), meeting at a television station for an appearance on the show “World of People,” and in this segment of the show the groundwork is laid illustrating the bond these three Chechen war veterans share. While in the first film, Brother, Danila claimed he just had a desk job in the army, this segment of Brother 2 makes it clear that Danila was involved in combat. After the taping of the TV programme, the three friends meet at a spa and Kostya mentions that his twin brother, ice hockey star Dmitri, plays in America for the Chicago Blackhawks. But while Dimitri should be raking in the big bucks, he’s locked in under contract to a corrupt American businessman, Mennis (Gary Houston). Mennis’s contract ensures that Dmitri, who should be a wealthy man, plays on a major team but gets a fraction of his check. Kostya discusses the problem with Ilya and Danila and mentions that since Mennis is about to arrive in Moscow, he will bring the problem to the attention of his slimy boss, Nikolyaevsky Bank executive Valentin Belkin (Sergei Makovetsky)–a business partner of Mennis.
Soon Danila and Ilya are on the run from Belkin’s henchmen, and along the way they get some colourful assistance from weapon hoarder and merchant Fascist (Konstantin Murzenko). The quest for justice takes Danila and his brother Viktor (Viktor Sukhorukov), a professional hitman known as The Tartar on a journey from Moscow to the clubs of Chicago. Brother 2 seems to be fairly standard fare at first, with Danila on the run from some blockhead baddies, but once Danila and Viktor hit America’s shores, the film ramps up and the fun really begins. A great deal of the fun comes from the encounters both men have on American soil; Danila is ripped off by his fellow Russians, makes friends with a truck driver (Ray Toler) and falls foul of a pimp. Meanwhile Viktor has the time of his life unleashed in Chicago.
The film also includes a few sly and not so-sly digs at American culture–including an enormous hamburger and the corruption and laziness of American law enforcement. According to Chicago police, it’s apparently ok to drink alcohol in broad daylight as long as the booze bottle is in a brown paper bag and the bottle isn’t exposed. Viktor fails to grasp this subtlety, and he soon shows Chicago’s police force what they can do with their laws. In its depiction of American culture, there is much to offend, but it should be remembered that some of the film is played for laughs, and the view isn’t flattering. Danila hangs out in a mostly black Chicago ghetto, and this section of the film gives a view of black culture that isn’t positive. This however is counterbalanced by Danila’s fortuitous and painful meeting with leggy black TV news reporter Lisa Jeffrey.
The film, while extremely funny, also has a serious side when it comes to the issue of American vs Russian values. Danila’s opinion of American culture is that money makes power, and by extension in American society, money supersedes all morality. Russian arms merchant, Fascist, for example is painstakingly honest in his dealings with Danila, and this can be compared to the dishonest Brighton Beach car merchant who appears later in the film. Brother 2 portrays some Russians who seem to have forgotten their country’s values and have gone native by placing money as the supreme value. Dmitri, for example, is one such soulless character. Similarly, the Russian prostitute, Marilyn/Dasha (Dariya Lesnikova) is another character who’s more or less forgotten her Russian code of behaviour until she gets a few refresher lessons from Danila.
The character of Danila continues to be every bit as intriguing as in the first film. Too often sequels neglect to flesh out their characters while the emphasis goes on plot rather than character. Filmmakers guilty of this error seem to feel that nothing else is required as the popular characters are already so comfortably ‘established’ with the audience. Brother 2 shows Danila’s sentimentality–towards friends, children, and towards his homeland–Russia. A couple of scenes focus on Danila’s face as he looks at his brother lovingly murmuring the word, ‘brother.’ And of course in this film, music fiend Danila rather appropriately has a relationship with Russian pop star, Irina Saltykova.
Fans of the first film should catch the complete reversal of fortune that occurs at the beginning of Brother 2. Viktor is stuck at home with his mother, and she urges him to go join his brother Danila in Moscow. This is at once a replay but a reversal of the beginning of Brother when Danila is told to go and visit his successful brother, Viktor in Moscow. If you enjoyed Brother, then grab a copy of Brother 2. It’s a bitter-sweet experience–a very enjoyable film, but tragic that Sergei Bodrov will make no more for his fans.