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Film / Brother (1997)

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А в чём сила, брат?

The city is an evil force. The strong come and become feeble. The city takes the strength away. And now you've fallen.
The German

Brother (Brat) is a 1997 Russian Neo Noir starring Sergei Bodrov.

Young war veteran Danila Bagrov returns home from the First Chechen War to a rapidly changing Russia and tenuous job prospects. His overbearing mother sends him to Saint Petersburg to work for his well-off brother, Viktor not knowing that the latter has become a hitman for a mafia boss named Roundhead (Krugly).

After helping his brother out with a job, Danila is thrust into the dangerous world of organized crime. As if that wasn't taxing enough, he must also work through identity issues of defining his culture and community issues faced by many young Russian men after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rapid westernization of Russia.

Brat enjoys cult status in Russia due to its valuable social commentary, a fantastic soundtrack consisting mostly of Russian rock songs, and an accurate depiction of lawless Russian realities in the 1990s. The film's protagonist Danila has also become something of an icon: while neither conventionally intelligent or charismatic, he has street smarts and strong principles, and is relatable as a Russian everyman (he has served in the army, listens to Russian rock, wears secondhand clothes, and always stands up for the oppressed and the disenfranchised).

By popular demand, a sequel (Brother 2 aka Brat 2) was released in 2000, but any hope for a third installment was tragically extinguished in 2002, when Sergei Bodrov and his crew were killed by an avalanche while filming an unrelated movie in the Caucasus mountains.


  • '90s Anti-Hero: Danila may be the Trope Codifier for Russian cinema. He lives in a Crapsack World where everyone is left fending for himself, he has sociopathic tendencies, solves his problems with violence and clearly has trouble with normal human interaction. On the other side he has strong principles and his very selfless.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Sveta is a little older than Danila, and Cat snidely wonders whether she's his mother upon seeing them together.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: There's something decidedly "off" about Danila. He's quiet, socially awkward, and unbothered by death and violence. At least some of it stems from his wartime trauma.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Danila and The German. They know they live in a Crapsack World, yet they never abandon their ideals.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Krugly sends Krot - a professional hitman to ambush and murder Danila. Danila "wastes Krot like it's nothing".
  • Badass Normal: Danila, compared to a lot of other action heroes: he's not a Stallone or Schwarzenegger who saves the day and gets the girl. He is of average height, build, and intelligence, but his sense of morality, combat experience, and unique charm made him into an icon for Russian youth of the time. He is a unique time capsule, a homegrown hero made out of the best (and worst) values of a post-Soviet Russian.
  • Bald of Evil: Viktor and Krugly.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • For Danila, Sveta as Betty and Cat as Veronica. The former is a hardworking tram driver who suffers from Domestic Abuse. The latter is a tomboyish club girl and drug dealer. Zigzagged, because Sveta cheats on her husband with Danila.
    • For Sveta, her abusive husband is the Betty (a chance at normality) and Danila, while sweeter and better-looking, is the Veronica (a gangster).
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Danila is shy and soft-spoken, but he also has a talent for killing that he doesn't hesitate to use.
  • Bilingual Bonus: At one point Danila is giving a Kubrick Stare to a non-Russophone "American" (who's happily chatting away on his cell phone) and telling him that his America will soon bite it. The guy is actually talking in French, but Danila doesn't know that and jumps to conclusions.
    Danila: Your American music is shit. What're you arguing for? I said the music is shit, and you're arguing. Soon, your America's gonna bite it. We're going to wipe the smiles off your faces.
    Cat: What're you bothering him for, he's French. Let's go.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Danila is a xenophobic gun-for-hire who defaults to violence as a first response to any problem. However, the people he goes up against tend to have it coming.
  • Blatant Lies: Danila claims to have worked in HQ throughout the war, but his stilted social skills, impressive combat abilities and knowledge of homemade weaponry all suggest otherwise.
  • Book Ends: The same song is playing on the radio both when Danila arrives in Saint Petersburg at the start of the film and when he hitchhikes out of the city at the end (the second time it's played in major key).
  • The Cameo: Several Russian rock musicians appear as themselves, most notably Danila's rock idol Vyacheslav Butusov.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Danila will distract and disarm opponents, as well as attack from behind, in order to get the upper hand in a fight.
  • Cool Old Guy: "The German" Hoffman, a homeless man who Danila saves from a thug and befriends (in exchange, The German saves Danila's life when the latter gets wounded). Hoffman is a decent soul and something of a philosopher; his goal in life is to refute the old Russian proverb "What's good for the Russian is death for the German".
  • Crapsack World: St. Petersburg circa the mid-1990's is portrayed this way. Many shots emphasize the city's decaying buildings and industrial landscapes, which serve to reflect the lawlessness of the setting.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: both of Danila's romantic prospects fizzle out by the film's end.
  • Dirty Coward: Viktor.
  • Disappeared Dad: Viktor and Danila grew up without their father, and Viktor acted as a male parental figure to his younger sibling.
  • Domestic Abuse: Sveta's husband regularly beats her but she still chooses him over Danila.
  • Dork in a Sweater: A major aversion; the very un-dorky Danila wears a cable knit sweater throughout, and the movie actually made sweaters seem very badass for a while.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Roundhead, despite his hobby of making up silly sayings, is clearly cruel for cruelty's sake.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Viktor is the foolish one, Danila the responsible one, despite what their mother used to say.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Danila is a war vet whose combat skills serve him well as a gun-for-hire.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: While the body count in the film is fairly high, most of the murders happen offscreen, with the camera cutting away at just the right moment to avoid showing bloodshed.
  • Groin Attack: On meeting Sveta's abusive husband, Danila kicks him in the balls. The husband is not only physically hurt, but also offended.
  • Gun Porn: Two very detailed scenes with Danila customizing his weapons. We even get to see him making distraction bombs from aluminum dust and potassium permanganate.
  • Hidden Weapons: Danila uses a plastic bag and an empty Sprite bottle to hide his revolver.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Danila, who's very sweet when off the job and genuinely tries to look out for innocent bystanders.
  • Iconic Outfit: Danila's cable knit sweater. The sweater-plus-windbeater look that he sports throughout the movie has been heavily imitated by Russian youth.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Danila's uncanny skill with a pistol shows that he probably didn't spend his army service in HQ as he claims.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Before the two important shootouts, we see scenes of Danila loading and customizing his weapons.
  • The Mafiya: The main antagonists of the film are this, what with the movie taking place in Russia.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Viktor, who plays on his younger brother's naiveté, familial love and xenophobia to get him to do Viktor's dirty jobs for him.
  • Only Sane Man: "The German", an old homeless street peddler who lives in a graveyard and the most honest and decent character in the movie.
  • Parental Favoritism: The Bagrovs' mother clearly thinks little of Danila and prefers Viktor to him.
  • Parental Substitute: Viktor took on a paternal role in his relationship with Danila.
  • Pocket Protector: Danila's CD player.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Danila claims to dislike Chechens (probably due to his service in the First Chechen War), Americans and Jews. However, he rarely acts on his prejudices and tries to judge people fairly regardless of race.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: Danila's living space reflects his fondness for Russian rock, especially Nautilus Pompilius.
  • Professional Killer: Viktor, who is a hitman for The Mafiya.
  • Race-Name Basis:
    • "The German" (whose real name is Hoffman);
    • "The Chechen" (real name unknown), who is actually not Chechen but Ossetian (at the very least he and his men speak Ossetian among themselves);
    • "The Tatar" (Viktor), who is actually not Tatar but presumably ethnically Slavic.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The only moment we see the normally cool and collected Danila lose his temper is when he discovers that Roundhead's thugs raped Sveta.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Danila is clearly a Romantic character; altruistic and fearless, he is a vigilante who fights for justice rather than money. Roundhead is on the Enlightenment side; he is selfish, pragmatic, and highly cynical.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The German rejects Danila's US$20,000 of blood money, which was an incredible amount for the economically collapsed 90s Russia (and even more incredible for a homeless street peddler).
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: In Danila's neighborhood, there is a local group of punks, drug addicts, and club kids who mock Danila for loving Russian rock. At one point Danila goes clubbing with them, and they dance to some very trashy eurodance.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Danila insists he was just a desk clerk when he was in the army. His familiarity with guns and hand-to-hand combat (as well as his demeanor towards violence) suggeset there's more to the story than he's letting on.
  • Slasher Smile: Roundhead has one on his face, when he watches as his thugs rape Sveta.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Danila, who's so immune to violence that he barely flinches when gunning people down. See also Psycho for Hire '90s Anti-Hero.
  • Spiritual Successor: The movie shares some similarities with Taxi Driver, e.g. the Wretched Hive setting and a vet-turned-vigilante protagonist who's simultaneously idealistic and antisocial.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Danila, who is shown to have his heart in the right place despite his choice of profession.
  • Thicker Than Water: Despite Viktor being a Manipulative Bastard and luring Danila into a trap (admittedly, he did it at gunpoint), Danila forgives him anyway, because Viktor is his brother.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: When Viktor was young, he was a kind and caring older brother who acted as a surrogate parent to Danila - and now he is a ruthless Professional Killer and Dirty Coward.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted; even the background goons have names and friends, and the protagonist, of course, is a low-ranking gun-for-hire as well.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The movie's realities are that of war, rampant crime, and widespread homelessness.
  • Wretched Hive: Saint Petersburg. Truth in Television: Russia was actually a lot like this in the so-called "wild nineties", the period of lawlessness that bridged the gap between the collapse of the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin's reforms in the 2000s.