Film Review: Viktor

Morose thriller set and shot in Moscow, which follows French ex-convict Viktor (Gerard Depardieu, who recently renounced his French citizenship and became Russian) as he tries to find out why his son was murdered.

Fresh off a seven-year stint in a French prison for stealing a priceless (and still unrecovered) painting, all Viktor Lambert wants is to see Jeremy, whom he left in the care of his old friend, Souliman (Eli Danker), the director of a Moscow-based ballet company. But there's a rude shock awaiting him: Jeremy is dead, murdered on the street; the police found no clues and the case has been backburnered. And that's not all: Souliman tells Viktor that starting about two years ago—around the same he turned down Souliman's offer of an administrative job with the company—Jeremy started using drugs. The only good news he has to impart is that Jeremy had a lovely girlfriend, a professional photographer who tried to help but left Jeremy when he started dealing. Perhaps she can tell him something useful.
Katarina (Polina Kuzminskaya) proves less than helpful, but drops another bombshell: She's pregnant with Jeremy's child, whom Viktor promises to support. Meanwhile, Inspector Plutova (Evgeniya Akhremenko) of the Moscow police department approaches Viktor and lets him know he'll be under surveillance until he leaves Russia. And curiously enough, she's in charge of a cold-case investigation involving an important piece of modern art that was stolen from a museum and asks Viktor if he'd be willing to act as a consultant. Makes sense—it takes a thief to catch a thief, as the old saying goes. That's a lot of complications, and that's before the addition of Viktor's old girlfriend Alexandra (Elizabeth Hurley), the sleekly glamorous owner of a swanky nightclub favored by well-heeled "businessmen."
And yet for all that's going on, Viktor is surprisingly dull: No one could accuse veteran producer and occasional director Philippe Martinez of not delivering the genre staples–car chases, gun battles, a little torture (a reluctant informer), female flesh and endless dark alleys and mean streets–and Moscow is wall-to-wall with photo ops, from the winding Neva River to the Cathedral of St. Basil, which has made so many movie appearances it should be getting above-the-title billing. And sadly, the problem is Depardieu, who lumbers through the film looking as though he's tormented by indigestion rather than a lust for vengeance. The appeal of securing an aging marquee name to class up a pedestrian thriller is obvious—witness Liam Neeson and 2008's Taken, which has spawned two sequels to date. But Depardieu is a drag on the already logy Viktor—look for a quick trip to DVD and On Demand.

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