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Thursday, April 30, 2009

12 translates 12 Angry Men into new Russian classic

With 12, director Nikita Mikhalkov does more than simply translate the American theater chestnut 12 Angry Men into Russian. Mikhalkov practically feasts on the original, best known for the 1957 Henry Fonda jury deliberation film. 12 milks its source material’s themes of social conflict, seasons it with contemporary Russian culture, and sets a 12-course banquet at the jury table.

Mikhalkov keeps the crime's and plot structure's basic details intact: A dozen men men must decide the fate of a youth accused of a brutal stabbing. At first the case looks open and shut, but a sole "not guilty" hold-out vote keeps the verdict from passing unanimously. A mousy-looking engineer (Sergei Makovetsky) initially frets that they’re rushing to judgment, then reveals a steely intellect as he proceeds to methodically demolish the prosecution’s case. He faces tough, bullying opposition from an alpha male cab driver (splendidly simian-looking Sergey Garmash), whose blatant racism makes his opinion seem immovable.

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(Photo courtesy Milena Botova © 2007 Three T Productions)

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