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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.

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 compatriots, so they don't rat him out. In the movie, however, the Plague Doctor's motives are genuine, and fairly straightforward (aside from the plan to allow the government to declare martial law and imprison or kill his followers once they outlive 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 Razumovsky and forced to navigate his maze alone after being drugged with a lethal dose of analgesic drug, 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 his crime involved accidentally killing two teenagers a year prior; in the film, he killed an orphaned girl from the same orphanage Razumovsky and Oleg Volkov once lived in during a DUI incident — 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 once 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.
  • 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.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Grom has dark hair, Dubin is blond and Pchelkina has bright apple-red hair.
  • 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.
  • 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. This turns out to be not quite the reveal.
  • Enemy Within: Despite what one might think after seeing the first stinger, Razumovsky's "dark side" is a case of flashy Split Personality and not a Demonic Possession.
  • 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.
  • 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 Gromov 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The Plague Doctor starts off as a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Then, kills a child along with his parents.
  • 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 Gromov 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.
  • Malicious Slander: Razumovsky puts Grom in the Plague Doctor costume, leaves him in a crime scene, and plants evidence in his apartment.
  • 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: Gromov 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. Gromov replies that he doesn't kill people.
  • 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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: A mentality that most characters (not only 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 a human 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.
  • Student and Master Team: Gromov and Dubin are forced to cooperate.
  • Taking You with Me: Razumovsky tries to pull this after learning about the existence of his Enemy Within.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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