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Film / Major Grom: Plague Doctor

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It's all about the duality.

Major Grom: Plague Doctor is a 2021 Russian action film based on the first arc of the comic book series Major Grom by the Russian publisher Bubble Comics. It follows the determined police major Igor Grom hunting down a vicious masked vigilante who calls themselves the Plague Doctor.

The film was released on Netflix on May 5, 2021. In March 2022, it was announced that a short prequel film, titled Major Grom: Difficult Childhood, was in the works. A teaser trailer was released on June 5, 2022.


Tropes used in Major Grom: Plague Doctor:

  • Adaptation Distillation: There were many, many alterations made to the original story:
    • In the comics, Razumovsky's plan to "cleanse" St. Petersburg involves rounding up the city's petty criminals and low-lifes and killing them in a maze of elaborate Saw-style death traps; the Plague Doctor's M.O. (i.e. killing rich, corrupt elites) is just a cover for getting rid of his wealthy suppliers, so that they don't rat him out. In the movie, however, the Plague Doctor's motives are genuine, and fairly straightforward (aside from allowing the government to declare martial law and imprison or kill his followers once they have outlived their usefulness).
      • Because the "death trap maze" element is removed from the story, the film's final act is also completely altered: instead of Igor Grom being held captive by Sergey Razumovsky and forced to navigate his maze alone after being drugged, the film has Grom facing the Plague Doctor in the maze-like server rooms of Vmeste headquarters, with the help of Yulia and Dima.
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    • In the comics, Kirill Grechkin is the son of a city prosecutor, and he accidentally killed two teenagers a year prior while speeding; the Plague Doctoe. In the film, Gretchkin killed a girl from the same orphanage where Razumovsky and Oleg Volkov once lived, while driving drunk — thus making his acquittal a personal matter for Razumovsky, and spurning him to action.
    • The comics involve a sequence where Grom visits a brothel frequented by Gretchkin, looking for clues, and ends up fighting the brothel's owners when he gets too aggressive while questioning Gretchkin's favorite escort. This part is entirely absent from the film, replaced with a montage of Grom kicking in doors and roughing up witnesses.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: In the Bubble Comics story, Razumovsky's Split Personalty, the Plague Doctor, doesn't truly emerge until the story's epilogue, "Metamorphosis"; prior to that, "the Plague Doctor" is just a fake persona that Razumovsky uses to commit his public crimes. In the film, however, the Plague Doctor alter ego emerges after Kirill Grechkin is acquitted of murder (though he initially takes the form of Oleg Volkov, Razumovsky's long-time friend).
    • Speaking of Oleg, he isn't introduced in the comics until far later in the series' run; in the movie, he's introduced in Razumovsky's first scene.
  • Adaptational Heroism: A few examples.
    • Igor Grom, while still a Cowboy Cop who isn't afraid to rough up suspects, is a lot more methodical in his approach and a lot less needlessly aggressive (saving violence for stubborn doors and people who truly deserve it). He also has soft side that barely appears in the comics: he has a father-son relationship with Fedor Prokopenko, looks out for a troubled orphan boy, and cares for a stray dog.
    • Even more blatant than Grom is Sergey Razumovsky. In the comics, Razumovsky is a flamboyant, elitist sociopath who "cleanses" society by murdering the city's lowlifes, and uses the equally flamboyant Plague Doctor persona to eliminate his accomplices (under the guise of "social justice"). By contrast, movie Razumovsky is a shy, nervous Geek who adopts the flamboyant Plague Doctor persona out of a genuine (if twisted) desire for social justice, and he recruits the city's lowlifes to help him get rid of the evil rich elites. (Though he does plan to allow the military to dispose of his followers afterward.)
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The creators have a series of podcasts on YouTube, one of which is just the writers answering the fans' questions. For example, it's stated that Dubin and Pchelkina entered the Vmeste HQ through the fire exit, and that's where they got the firehose and the fire extinguisher that appear in the final battle.
    • Razumovsky's "evil" side is called "the Bird", and the "good" side is called "the Doormat", because "the Bird" hoards most of the confidence and aggression. This comes from the comic book series the movie is based on.
  • Animated Credits Opening:
    • An Artistic Title chock-full of visual metaphors and set to a chillingly beautiful song.
    • The end credits are also animated, but in a doodly style, are set to an upbeat song and depict Igor Grom beating up the movie's crew as their names appear onscreen. Then it switches to a regular credits roll.
  • Bathtub Scene: Grom has a short one; it was absolutely unnecessary, but no one is complaining.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The subtitles make it clear that "Vmeste" means "Together", but there's a lot more Russian text to read. Some notable examples:
    • One of the stickers on Ignat "Booster"'s door reads "Do not enter without a mask."
    • A t-shirt Pchelkina is wearing reads "The editors are asking for blood".
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Grom and Pchelkina attend the opening night in the Golden Dragon casino; amusingly, they do it independently and only bump into each other after entering. Grom has to borrow the suit from his criminal friend, along with an expensive car which, he points out, just happens to match the desciption of one stolen the week before.
    Guest: Hey, nice car. I had one like this. It got stolen last week.
    Grom: (handing him the keys) Case closed then.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Grom has dark hair, Dubin is blond and Pchelkina has bright apple-red hair.
  • Brick Joke: The animated credits show Grom and Dubin eventually did track down the stolen refrigerators.
  • Childhood Friends: Sergey Razumovsky and Oleg Volkov grew up in an orphanage together.
  • The Confidant: Naturally, as an Only Friend Volkov is this to Razumovsky.
  • Crapsack World: Saint Petersburg is a den of crime, corruption, and social inequity. Theft, rape, and drug use abound. Criminal enterprises thrive. The wealthy exploit and disenfranchise the vulnerable, the politicians and lawmakers protect their own interests and allow criminals to slip through the cracks, and legal red tape prevents law enforcement from doing its job. The first ten minutes of the film shows a bank truck being hijacked in broad daylight, an old man who had his wallet stolen, and a man who argues that he should get off for assault because "[w]e don't go to jail for domestic violence here". Even Grom, the most competent man on the police force, laments that the entire system is rotten to the core. It's no wonder that the Plague Doctor gathers so many hardcore supporters so quickly.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Early on, Volkov pulls off the Plague Doctor mask in front of Razumovsky. This stays between the two and the audience while all the other characters try to figure out the villain's real identity. Subverted when Volkov turns out to be a manifestation of Razumovsky's Split Personality.
    • The second post-credit scene shows that Oleg is actually alive in Syria. None of the other characters know this.
  • Dramatic Unmask:
    • Early on, Volkov dramatically pulls off the Plague Doctor mask to reveal himself to Razumovsky after committing his first murder. This turns out to be not quite the reveal.
    • During the fight with the vigilantes at the casino, Grom unmasks one of them to find he's the orphan he tried to help earlier.
  • Eat the Rich: The Plague Doctor carries out several vigilante murders of corrupt Russian oligarchs, encouraging others to take up his cause. After faking his death, Razumovsky puts out a Video Will calling on his supporters to rob and kill rich people whose names and addresses he sends out on the Internet. His actual intention is to get rid of the oligarchs trying to steal his company, then martial law will be declared and the army will shoot his riff-raff followers.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Before the final fight, Pchelkina hugs Grom and discreetly sticks a bug on his jacket, so even he didn't know that Razumovsky's final Motive Rant was recorded.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Plague Doctor is compared to Batman, but as is immediately pointed out, Batman doesn't kill people.
  • Failed a Spot Check: When Grom visits the very drunk Razumovsky, he somehow fails to see Oleg appearing right beside him. Subverted seconds later, when it's revealed that Oleg is a figment of Razumovsky's imagination; of course Grom doesn't see him.
  • Failure Gambit: Once the Plague Doctor is captured, he activates the explosives in the evidence storage room of the police station and posts a video encouraging his followers to riot in the streets. However this is just Razumovsky Faking the Dead, while blowing up Grom as a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit. Fortunately Grom has escaped the police station by then, and most of the police were outside fending off the rioters.
  • Fake Action Prologue: Not one but two scenes. Both times they're cut short after an undesirable end by Grom's "Think, think!" and rewound, as they're merely possibilities that he imagines. After a few times, he'll find an optimal solution, say something like "Nothing to think about", and rush into action for real.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Thanks to the above-mentioned Fake Action Prologue; we see Grom rush into action, get shot and then cut to his funeral. Grom then wakes up in his coffin, but it's not because he has superpowers but because the whole thing is an Imagine Spot. We then Smash Cut to Grom trying to think up a better plan. It happens again in the final battle as well.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The Plague Doctor kills his victims with Tricked-Out Gloves that shoot flame. The fuel is held in a canister inserted in the gloves, apparently filled with Applied Phlebotinum developed by the weapons corporation he's connected to, as they're far too small for actual flamethrowers.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Visiting Razumovsky for the second time, Grom somehow fails to see Oleg appearing right beside him; this looks like an Out-of-Character Moment for the usually observant Grom. Seconds later, it is revealed that Grom really can't see Oleg because Oleg is Razumovsky's hallucination.
  • Flashback-Montage Realization: Grom has one of these about Razumovsky.
  • Frame-Up: Razumovsky puts Grom in the Plague Doctor costume, leaves him in a crime scene, and plants evidence in his apartment.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Or in this case a Hard Work and Drinking Coffee montage.
  • Imaginary Friend: Oleg. The man we see for most of the movie is actually a figment of Razumovsky's imagination; the real Oleg is presumed dead, though the second stinger shows him alive in Syria.
  • I Work Alone: An ongoing theme is how Grom has no love life and hates working with a partner, as he doesn't trust anyone. By the end of the movie he accepts Dubin and Yulia as True Companions, and it's implied Yulia will become a Love Interest as well.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The Plague Doctor starts off as a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Then, he kills a child along with his parents. Tellingly this is the line one of his supporters refuses to cross in the Eat the Rich riots.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: After the Plague Doctor's body count starts to grow, special agent Evgeny Strelkov arrives from Moscow to help with the investigation. He is quickly shown to be a smug glory hound who treats the Saint Petersburg police as his minions (read: like crap) and especially hates Grom's guts.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: A casino boss shouts for his guards to throw Razumovsky off the premises, only for a guard to smash through the table in front of him, thrown over a railing by a gang of vigilantes who've just broken in.
  • Kill Him Already!: Averted — the characters acknowledge that the Plague Doctor would become an Inspirational Martyr.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Plague Doctor uses flamethrowers to murder his victims.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Both Grom and Pchelkina are pragmatic in their methods and disillusioned with the world around them, but at their cores, they're idealists who believe wholeheartedly in people who have earned their trust.
  • Lead Police Detective: Igor Grom and Evgeny Strelkov; naturally they bump heads.
  • Mood Whiplash: The comedic action scene at the beginning is followed by the chilling opening credits.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black: In the comics, the Plague Doctor's signature mask is white with red lenses, and it's paired with a purple suit and frock coat (with red lapels). In the movie, the Plague Doctor's costume is completely black, and includes body armor and a Badass Cape. This serves to make him look more ominous.
  • Motive Rant: Plenty of them, as the antagonist has a Split Personality and the "evil" side has trouble convincing the "good" side.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Grom justifies his Cowboy Cop ways: he can't play by the rules to catch criminals that don't play by the rules; Dubin asks him what differentiates him from them. Grom replies that he doesn't kill people. At one point it looks like Grom really will kill the villain as it's the only option left, but fortunately Yulia is able to Take a Third Option.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Grom is repeatedly told that This Is Reality and he should stop acting like a comic book hero. When going to their final confrontation, the only clothing Grom makes a point of putting on is the flat cap and leather jacket we first saw him in. At the end of the movie, Grom says he can't be a superhero as he doesn't fly or shoot lasers from his eyes, but Yulia points out that defeating the supervillain was all he needed to become one.
  • Odd Couple: The classic "Cowboy Cop forced to partner with an Eager Rookie By-the-Book Cop", though Dubin prefers to think of them as a Student–Master Team.
  • Offhand Backhand: On first seeing the Plague Doctor burning someone alive with his flamethrowers, Grom decides to forgo the heroics and play it safe, imagining a scenario where he throws a rock at the back of the Plague Doctor's head and knocks him out, then walks up and slaps the cuffs on. It's a good idea right up to the moment when the Plague Doctor catches the rock without even looking behind him.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The upper half of the poster depicts the characters against the blue skies; the lower half has the Plague Doctor and his copycats in shades of orange.
  • Plague Doctor: The titular antagonist wears the mask, uses the concept of a plague in his Motive Rant, and bases his killing method on an actual plague doctor practice, burning the victims of disease.
  • The Reveal: The movie has a pileup of these.
    • Volkov is the Plague Doctor.
    • Actually, Volkov has been dead for over a year, and the Plague Doctor is a manifestation of Razumovsky's Enemy Within, which means Razumovsky was (unknowingly) the vigilante all along.
    • In the second post-credits scene, Volkov is revealed to be alive in Syria.
  • Roofhopping: As Grom is a Cowboy Cop and not a superhero (yet), his efforts are less than successful when he's forced to use this trope; he tries to leap to the next rooftop and crashes through a window and down a staircase instead. However Grom liked the view so much he takes his Fire-Forged Friends up there at the end of the movie to have something to eat.
  • Running Gag:
    • Grom doing something badass only for reality to ensue, whereupon it's revealed to be an Imagine Spot as Grom tries to think up a better plan.
    • Grom is assigned to investigate the disappearance of 12 refrigerators to get him away from the Plague Doctor case, but being who he is he doesn't performs this assignment (the closest he gets to it is telling Dubin to do it). The refrigerators are referenced a few more times with Strelkov and Propokenko reminding Grom of his assignment and Dubin asking a few of Grom's criminal informants if they've seen them. The gag finally ends with the animated end credits showing Grom beating up his way through the film's production crew to find the refrigerators.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: A mentality that seems to be in play amongst the wealthy elite in Saint Petersburg — and which most characters (not just the antagonist) dislike with varying degrees of passion.
  • Shirtless Scene: When Dubin visits Grom in his apartment, the latter is shirtless the entire time.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: The opening credits are set to the cover of the famous Protest Song "Peremen" ("Changes" in Russian), originally by Viktor Tsoi. The original is energetic and spunky; the cover is chillingly melancholic.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • As Grom applies the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique to one thug after the other, the song in the background cheerfully repeats, "I love people," adding to the Black Comedy. (It should be noted that the original song by Dolphin is one hell of a misanthropic Cluster F-Bomb, so this trope is played with.)
    • Strelkov, the unpleasant Perpetual Smiler, is accompanied by a sweet old song about friendly smiles making the world a better place.
  • Split-Personality Makeover:
    • "The Doormat" has blue eyes and "the Bird" has yellow eyes; the trope is downplayed, as the difference is only seen by the character themselves.
    • In the first post-credits scene, "the Bird" takes the shape of a humanoid, black-feathered bird with Razumovsky's face.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Happens for the finale.
  • The Stinger: Two of them!
    • In the first one, Razumovsky is shown in a mental hospital, listening to his dark side.
    • In the second one, Volkov is revealed to be alive.
  • Taking You with Me: Razumovsky tries to pull this after learning about the existence of his Enemy Within. Then in their final confrontation, Grom tackles Razumovsky out the window on realising It's the Only Way to stop him. Fortunately Grom's friends grab his legs, saving both their lives.
  • Talking to Themself: Initially, Razumovsky doesn't even realize that he's doing that.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Discussed constantly; the characters who struggle with this dilemma the most are Dubin and Razumovsky.
  • Trespassing to Talk: After seeing his case notes on Yulia's website (which could get him fired), Grom breaks into her apartment to tell her off. She's not impressed until Grom informs her that he also left her laptop under a running tap.
  • Trojan Horse: Razumovsky plants containers of fuel for his flamethrower gloves in Grom's apartment to frame him, later detonating them remotely to fake the death of the Plague Doctor (Grom was supposed to be in a cell there). Fortunately most of Grom's colleagues were outside the building holding off a rioting crowd of the Plague Doctor's supporters.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Apparently this happens so often to Grom his fellow police officers have a Side Bet on whether he really will get fired this time. He gets chewed out by Fedor, who orders Grom to write out his resignation letter and hand in his badge. But after he leaves Fedor crumples up his letter and hands back the badge the next day. When Fedor is ordered to fire Grom for real halfway through the movie he's not happy, and Grom takes out the crumpled resignation from his drawer and signs it to spare him from having to do so.
  • Vigilante Execution: Four of them, and that's just the beginning of the plan.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Heel Realization will do that to you.
  • Wham Line: "Oleg is not here".
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea: Zig-Zagged. It's stated that the Plague Doctor lost most of his followers after having his Uriah Gambit exposed, but that was said on TV, so can we really believe it?
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The ultimate plan of the Plague Doctor is to have his followers (mostly gangsters and lowlifes) dispose of the corrupted rich people of the city, which would make the army dispose of the followers themselves, whom he also considers unsuitable for a perfect world.
  • Who Are You?: At the end of the Action Prologue during which our hero catches a gang of armoured car robbers, their leader gives this this trope. Smash cut to a MAJOR GROM title card, then back to the robber complaining that Grom didn't say anything. He asks again: "Who are you, motherfucker?" only to get a punch in the face and the full Title Sequence.
  • Working-Class Hero: As Grom points out in response to the Plague Doctor's Motive Rant, he has the same anger and frustration over injustice, but he sees it from the streets, not from a luxury skyscraper.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Grom first encounters Yulia Pchelkina being attacked by a couple of rapists outside his apartment. After inflicting a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the rapists, he takes her to his apartment to treat her injuries, whereupon she photographs his case notes on the Plague Doctor and slips out the door. She then pays off the supposed rapists who are waiting for her outside, but they insist on getting 'something extra' for their injuries. Yulia pepper-sprays the both of them and calmly walks off as they scream in agony.

This troper is a dog!