Thursday, June 16, 2011

In short: Trackman (2007)

Original title: Putevoy obkhodchik

After their bank robbery ends with a few dead cops, a group of robbers grabs two bank employees (Svetlana Metkina and Yuliya Mikhailova) and the surviving cop as hostages, and scamper off with their ill gotten gains into the deserted subway tunnels that are their official way of escape.

But there are tensions among the bank robbers. Good guy criminal Grom (Dmitriy Orlov) isn't too pleased with the dead cops or the psychopathic behaviour of his partner Kostya (Tomas Motskus), while Kostya and Splinter, the mastermind behind the robbery, are planning to get rid off their partners in the underground.

These plans become quite obsolete once the inhabitant of the tunnels makes his first appearance: a large man (Aleksey Dmitriev) running around with a rag around his face and dirty goggles over his eyes whose hobby (everybody needs one) is the collection of human eyes. Well, and poking people with his pick axe. The Trackman is no traditionalist when it comes to murder, though. If need be, he also grabs an automatic rifle or a flame thrower, which is pretty understandable given how well armed his victims here are. Hand grenades are still easily bought in Russia, it seems, but like any good slasher movie killer, the Trackman's not easily killed.

Since it seems to be a minor theme with me these days, let's get the largest criticism of Russian director/actor Igor Shavlak's (yes, the guy who starred in and possibly co-directed the pretty fine Semya Vurdalakov once) slasher movie Trackman out of the way first: it's that it is a slasher movie filled with the healthy lack of originality that sub-genre implies, and if you can't stand genre films working strictly inside the boundaries of their genre, you won't find much to enjoy here.

Stylistically and content-wise, Shavlak's film is a nice throwback to the earlier days of the slasher movie, when a movie's potential to be actually thrilling wasn't buried under badly digested ironic that makes it impossible to immerse oneself into a film, and when the rules of the genre were less heavily codified than they are today. This leads to the curious effect that an at heart ultra-generic movie like this still manages to surprise by doing some things a little bit differently than you would have expected from a slasher made in 2007; it is, for example, not obvious from the start in which order the characters will be killed off - doesn't sound like much, but once you've seen enough of these movies, you'll be thankful for every little change.

Trackman plays its slight but entertaining little story straight for most of its running time, betting on tight editing and the slightly monotonous yet atmospherically shot tunnels ninety percent of it take place in to get its audience excited.

For my tastes, that's enough to make the film turn out better than many other movies about people getting slaughtered in tunnels.


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