Thursday, October 11, 2007

Red Dust

Crvena prašina; Drama, Croatia, 1999; D: Zrinko Ogresta, S: Josip Kučan, Marko Matanović, Ivo Gregurević, Slaven Knezović, Kristijan Ugrina, Sandra Lončarić

Croatia, early 90s. Young boxer Luka Crnjak completes his army service and returns home, only to find out his ex-girlfriend is marrying mafia member Boss. Luka can't find a job so he tries selling cigarettes but gets beaten up because Boss already does that job. In the neighborhood there lives a small boy who adores Luka while a local cop is his friend. Luka witnesses how Boss kills his wife and places her in his house. Luka gets arrested innocently but released a short time later. The war in Croatia is slowly ending, but he and many other workers get fired when Boss buys off their company and shuts it down. Luka attacks and wounds Boss, but gets killed. The cop beats up Boss.

Social drama "Red Dust" is sadly just a sufficient achievement with a lethargic, to death depressive story that handles the gloomy, sad circumstances in Croatia in the 90s: the main hero, boxer Luka, who is nicknamed "Croatian Rocky", can't find work and is even punished innocently, acting as a symbol for the average citizen, while the mobster Boss steals, cheats, buys off companies and shuts them down, creating even more unemployment, and always ends up invincible, serving as a symbol for many tycoons and fishy politicians in those times. Sadly, even though the poor story got some points thanks to director Zrinko Ogresta, he didn't continue his positive first impression with his directorial debut. It's a good thing the film (mostly) avoids pathetic tone and war hysteria, but not even those events that are shown have some special values. Josip Kučan delivered a very good performance as the hero, while some characters are neat, like a crazy old lady who is throwing rocks at passer bys, a kid who smokes cigarettes and has the nickname "Smoking in the rain" or a dog with three legs. Still, most characters are just cliches - they just swear or act primitive - and blend in with most weak films from Croatia's "black hole of cinema" in the 90s, and the minute the subplot in which a corpse is placed inside Luka's home to frame him is introduced, one can guess the whole thing will end in an overkill tragedy. More humor and skill could have improved the film, because this way it ended just like plain dust.


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