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Studio:E1 Entertainment
Director:Vladimir Khotinenko
Cast:Michal Zebrowski, Violetta Davydovskaya, Pyotr Kislov, Ramón Langa
Release Date:2009
Genre:Foreign, Historical

By Lee Gardner | Posted 4/22/2009

THE MOVIE If your sole exposure to Russian film is limited to, say, Andrei Rublev and Night Watch, well, you're actually pretty well-prepared to take in 1612, if not necessarily to enjoy it. This 2007 epic from director Vladimir Khotinenko revisits the historical "Time of Troubles," the period of chaos between the reign of the Rurik tsars coming to an end and the rise of the Romanov tsars. In Khotinenko's account, Polish-Lithuanian forces hold a weakened Russia in thrall, thanks to the heavy boot of the ruthless Polish hetman (charismatic Michal Zebrowski), who is engaged in a campaign to push Roman Catholicism on the Orthodox populace and install his pet Russian noble, Kseniya Godunova (glittering-eyed Violetta Davydovskaya), as tsarina. All that stands in his way is serf Andrei (vacant bohunk Pyotr Kislov), who has his own past connection to the hetman and the would-be tsarina and, through various adventures, rallies the Russian people to oppose the invaders. The accuracy of the movie's history is not something a layperson should likely wade in on, but Khotinenko's use of the full arsenal of hyper '00s camera/CGI gimmickry and naff magic realism--the ghost of a rakish Spanish mercenary (Ramón Langa) teaches Andrei fencing and a unicorn with mane extensions shadows the proceedings--doesn't bode well. And, unlike Night Watch's Timur Bekmambetov, Khotinenko has no knack for making this garish approach sing, leading to the sort of anachronistic muddle that makes cheeseball historical claptrap like The Messenger or First Knight look accomplished in comparison. That said, there are some nifty shots of cannonballs whizzing back and forth, Zebrowski could have a long career playing Hollywood heavies if he wants one, and 1612 is almost worth a rental just for the never-ending parade of crazy fur hats.

THE DISC There's a making-of featurette that's most interesting for its background glimpses of the film's historical spectacle, and a photo gallery, but that's it.

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