Subtitled A New Russian, Tycoon is a fictional version of the rise and fall of post-Soviet businessman Boris Berezovsky, who thrived during the chaotic economic period that followed the fall of communism. The film’s version of Berezovsky, a charming schemer called Plato Makovski (played by Vladimir Mashkov, who has some of the ratty appeal of a young Cassevetes), is first presented as a prankish math genius who, along with some gifted colleagues, decides to make his fortune through various semilegal ruses. As he grows richer and his activities lead him to more and more contact with the Russian underground, he grows correspondingly more ruthless. Soon his little consortium of friends find themselves dying one by one.
It’s obvious that director and co-writer Pavel Lounguine intended his film to have a Godfather-like heft, with its story of personal misfortune heightened by its depiction of a specific historical period. But the problem here, besides a meandering script, is the director’s competent yet unremarkable style. The film, which seems about 30 minutes too long, plays out with the even-keeled pace of a pre-cable TV movie, and that, combined with some occasionally puzzling continuity, makes it all seem like an edited-down miniseries. Which it isn’t.
On the plus side, Mashkov gives a convincing performance as someone who’s slowly rotting inside, and Andrei Krasko is amusingly over-the-top as a Yeltsin-type politician whom Mashkov mistakes for a rube he can control. But overall the film is too talky and too long, and with its many references to arcane Russian business practices, in need of footnotes to go along with the subtitles.
In Russian, with subtitles. Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Monday, Nov. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.