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What begins as an odd sort of, “I raise assassins for a living” becomes an almost coming of age tale about a boy realizing the difference between right and wrong. Which, strangely enough, all begins with a weird boy and him standing up for a chicken.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
In what looks like a rundown mansion lives Gregori (Vincent Cassel), and at least a dozen children, and half a dozen women. All of which who all co-habituate and each take on a task. For the women, some keep the electricity going, cook, take care of the kids or handle some of the dirty work like killing the animals. As for the children? Well, arguably whatever they ask for they are given. If they want jewelry, Gregori makes sure it happens, if they want toys, he gets it, but while him being their father figure, or actual father, is beautiful to see, the cost is not.
For while, at first, it seems Gregori perhaps is like Leon from Leon: The Professional, it is revealed that is far from the truth. In reality, Gregori is almost like a cult leader, one who seems to have a harem going and with the love of the mothers, and adoration of the children, all he needs is a constant flow of work to send the kids off to. However, one young child, named Leo (Alex Balaganskiy) changes everything. For while the women seem to never question Gregori, despite him sending their children into town to murder, this one young boy questions him. Something which is seen by Gregori’s favorite child: Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel).
Thus leading to the idea that not only is Gregori’s will not absolute but, as much as he is the caretaker, the father, and the boss, he is not someone to be unquestioned. For his actions against Leo, his decisions to reinforce his position and a true reflection of his person, it troubles Alexander. To the point where his mind blooms and comes to possibly question what he knows, especially as he finds himself with a little brother. Someone who surely he feels he must protect, even at the cost of their current comfortable present.
Though it was short-lived, I liked the Leon: The Professional vibe I first got from the movie. For with Gregori training all of his kids to be assassins, and us getting to witness a few, it was quite eye opening. To the point, I honestly thought this film was going to end up rather bloody.
Even with Cassel and Chabriel being the stars of the film, a part of me feels Balaganskiy was perhaps the most interesting here. Which perhaps is odd to say since he got the least screen time of the three, but there was something far more interesting about him than the other two. Be it because Balangaskiy’s character was the catalyst for Chabriel’s change, or just because he played him to be unique. For while Alexander, and in extension Chabriel, seems like a Tom Cruise in the making, Balangaskiy seems like he can’t just rely on looking like a heartthrob. He has to perform and create a character more so than simply do as many young actors do and just stare off into the distance and try to cry on cue.
Being that I’m the type who likes knowing the background of characters, and how things got to how they are now, it stunk that we didn’t really get to know the mothers, nor Gregori, that well. We are told that many of them didn’t have the best lives before they formed this little cult, but as for why they decided to join, stay, and possibly procreate there, I just don’t feel we are given a solid answer.
Another issue is that when it comes to these assassination missions, again there is a serious lack of information. For one, you are never really told how Gregori started this business, much less why the mothers seem indifferent about it. On top of that, being that Gregori’s past is shrouded in mystery, it becomes hard to know whether he is just a man who knows how to manipulate, a former soldier using an old connection, or something else entirely.
On The Fence
While I did enjoy Gregori and Alexander, I must admit that neither seemed to be as compelling as we are supposed to think of them as. Which, again, is mostly due to lack of backstory. Gregori has charisma and seems cool to a certain point, but with us not getting a serious opportunity to know the man behind the leadership persona, he becomes like a paper thin billboard. One which, once Leo punches through this façade, leaves us a man broken easily by a child.
Then, with Alexander, being that Chabriel plays him as most teen and children are played, naïve, doe-eyed, and unknowing, again there isn’t a strong sense of connection. He seems so familiar, so generic, that arguably he could be replaced by any of the kids we meet and the results would feel the same. Which isn’t because of lack of backstory, for the character is too young for that to matter, but more so a lack of build and his turning point with Leo just not seeming like an epiphany but a robot who was secretly reprogrammed.
Overall: TV Viewing
While the trailer is alluring, as well as the initial impression, what we are ultimately left with is a beautiful concept with a so-so execution. For whether it is perhaps having too large of a cast to really focus on, the leads not being developed to the point of getting, and keeping, your attention, or Chabriel not being the type of actor, yet, which can shoulder facing off against a veteran actor, something is amiss. Hence the TV Viewing label for what potential this film seemed to have had doesn’t feel realized and, even with me feeling the need to admit that part of my lean toward criticism is perceptions not met, I do feel what ultimately is given is rather lackluster.