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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2005
Tycoon, like The Godfather, may not be strictly accurate, but is in a profound way utterly true. Based not very loosely on the life of Boris Berezovsky, a real-life Russian oligarch who got his start in the car smuggling rackets, the movie depicts the meteoric rise of Platon Markovski, a Jewish mathematics student with an abundance of guts and guile. Markovski puts his considerable charm and ingenuity to work inventing a new breed of capitalism amid the anarchy of 1990s Russia.

Markovski and his loyal band of brothers run afoul of scheming Kremlin bureacrats who want their piece of the capitalist action without leaving the security of their government posts. The battle between the bureaucrats and the oligarch prefigures Vladimir Putin's real-life confrontations with Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other malefactors of great wealth.

The movie is overstuffed with characters and incidents, but Director Pavel Lungin keeps it all pumping furiously forward. Tycoon is a triumph of old fashioned storytelling and, like the Godfather, is filled with small moments of warmth and humor along with operatic drama. As outrageous as the plot turns get, none of it - the hypercreative business deals, the buying of politicians, the wild west shootouts between the state and the capitalists - is stranger than what actually happened in Russia over the past 15 years.

The acting and directing are uniformly excellent. This movie, while remaining true to its gangster tale roots, manages to indict an entire society for losing its ideals and sense of human connection once it discovers the delirious delights of the dollar.
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on September 13, 2004
The timeframe depicted in this film spans from the 80s into the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of what is termed in Russia the "oligarchs"--essentially, robber barons who ruthlessly did, and do everything they can to make millions of dollars. One such, a real person, was Boris Berekovski, here christened Platon Makovski.

Using flashbacks, the director, Pavel Longuine, a dual citizen of France and Russia, gives us a penetrating look at how Russians thought and felt and acted as the backbone of their entire civilization, communism, disappeared, to be replaced by a capitalism whose brutality made--and makes--people like John D. Rockefeller resemble babes in the woods. In the new Russia, people openly kill each other for business. Is that true in the US? Sure. But it's true typically of criminals--i.e., those whose lives are on a specific path.

What Longuine shows us in this film is that in the new Russia, it's true of businessmen who follow a path of doing business that can just as easily include whipping out a Kalashnikov and blowing away their competition as it can sitting at a conference room table.

The flashback technique is used effectively, counting down the years--starting at 15 years prior to Makovski's untimely demise--until just before the day of his death. We meet Makovski, his business associates, his mistress(es), the judge who uncovers the truth, his rivals, his allies, his friends. As each character makes his/her presence known, more of the new Russia is revealed until we see a picture of just how cutthroat things became--and still are. To illustrate this, one of Makovski's associates tells a joke about a man who bought a tie for $3,000 and is told by his friend that he was ripped off, since he saw the same tie somewhere else for $2,500.

This is a unique film--no other cinematic work has explored this territory, certainly not as clearly and comprehensively as Longuine has here. Great job.
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on September 27, 2005
The Tycoon is a good movie showing the rise of a new Russian, allegedly resembling Berezovsky. It is fast and funny, and it genuinely reflects realities of the new Russia. Russia has had a tragic 20th century, with grotesque leaders all the way through: the weak and talentless Nickolas II, the crazy people-hater Lenin, the blood-thirsty Stalin, the clown Khruschev, the brainless chatter-box Gorbachev, and the alcoholic and hypocrite Yeltsyn. So the new business genius Platon, continuing this tradition of criminal activities, starts also as a criminal and, together with his gang of mates, creates an empire helped by the mafia from the Caucasus, an Afghan war crippled hero, and someone whose name is never mentioned, but who is obviously the new czar. Platon is portrayed as a heroic figure fighting injustice and at some stage you even empathize with him. He loves his friends, is a good husband and father, and is so full of energy and joy of life... But then we realize that he is another criminal, except he had more brains, stamina and courage to climb to the summit than others whom he ruthlessly eliminates, in particular after they killed his buddies. He stole what belonged to the whole nation. Nevertheless, he is someone we should know in order to understand this great country.

The artistic value of the film is high, the actors are brilliant, and it is a passionate affair with the new Russia and its talented people.
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on March 4, 2007
Other reviewers have covered the essential plot points, the essence being the rise and tribulations of Platon Markovsky. Platon is actually a far more sympathetic character than any real-life plutocrat because he's using his wits rather than old KGB connections and, until just before the end, he doesn't assassinate anyone in the pursuit of riches. The viewer can therefore sympathize with Platon in a way that would be improbable if we were watching a documentary on the rise of Boris Berezovsky, for example.

There are too many excellent cinamatographic moments to list; one of my favorites repeatedly occurs in the last quarter of the movie where a grinning picture of Boris Yeltsin (then Russia's alcoholic president) smiles down on corrupt bureaucrat-gangsters as they vivisect the State in pursuit of enormous gains. When the cat is asleep (in this case, in a drunken stupor) the mice will play dirty games indeed.

For someone learning Russian and therefore not utilizing subtitles, it will help to have a native speaker available or a really good dictionary of contemporary slang. For example, it took me a little while to discover that "laveh" (spelled love, with the stress on the last syllable) is slang for money in a way that is equivalent to the British English "dosh" or the French "butin" but which has no real equivalent in American English. It was also enlightening to discover that Russian has a specific word for "slow agonizing death," namely podihat.

Platon's progress is somewhat akin to that of the emponymous Candide in Voltaire's novel: the journey is interesting but its main artistic purpose is to shed light on the society that creates such circumstances. Just as Candide was a bitter criticism of Europe, so Tycoon is a deep and painful criticism of Russia in the 1990s. Of course it's sad to note that since then things have become even more brutal and cynical, with the current President clearly doing everything possible to recreate Tzarist Russia with himself in the role of Tzar (a word which, incidentally, derives from the Roman Caesar).

If you have any interest in understanding contemporary Russia there are many worse ways to do it than spending an enjoyable nearly-3 hours watching this excellent movie.
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on June 25, 2012
Not quite what I would describe as a "Russian version of the Godfather", but if you know a little basic Russian history and are aware of the story of Boris Berezovsky, then this will make for a very entertaining movie.
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on February 19, 2005
An excellent, informative and fascinating movie. It is spellbinding and tragic. Although it gets to a slow start, it picks up speed and never stops for breath. I enjoyed every minute of it and it is a telling story of what happens during a national renewal and the often fatal conflict between money and power.
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on May 30, 2007
A wonderful movie, very good actors, delivering an interesting picture of ex-USSR and the evolution of friendship

While western movies usualy show educated youngsters attracted by left wing ideals in the 70's, this movie depicts the opposite journey from russians ex-communists to capitalism and freedom

You easily get caught in the life of plato and his friends

I love it
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on June 26, 2004
This movie was excellent, it trully captures the reality of how Russia operates. Nothing in this movie has been exaggerated at all.
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on June 17, 2004
An amazing look at the new corruption in Russia and the shady characters that the new system promotes. This film is right up there with some of the best U.S. gangster movies, including Goodfellas, Godfather, and Scarface. A movie that no one hears of but everyone should see.
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on January 21, 2005
If you come accross this movie, go ahead and watch it. I didn't find the story fantastic at all. This is what happens in third world countries. As reviewers we can't give away plot line and spoil it for everybody. The main character Plato is successfully assinated after some fifteen attempts and the story is told through flashbacks to great effect. A coterie is pulled and pushed againts each other in a game of finding a traitor. Along the way Plato earn enemies and friends. Among the most virulent enemies is a corrupt Russian aristrocat whose wife Plato bangs and I will leave it at that. I think one of the most intriguing character is the district attorney who is investigating Plato and his billion dollar firm INFOCAR. His motives are not entirely clear but the this DA is uncovering all kinds of stuff.
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