Gorky Park (1983) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

(Scoopy's note: I agreed with everything Tuna said, and I had some additional thoughts, so I just combined it all into one review. We give it two thumbs up.)

Gorky Park (1983) is a very classy whodunit starring William Hurt as Renko, a Moscow city detective investigating a bizarre triple murder.

Three bodies are found in Gorky Park, and all of them have had their faces and fingertips removed. Renko smells KGB from the beginning, and tries to get off the case, but is persuaded by the head of the department to stay with the case. It turns out that just about everyone in Moscow is using Renko's investigation for his own purposes, and Renko feels like he's heading straight into a trap.


Pacula showed breasts and buns in the sex scene with Hurt
His biggest lead is a young woman (Joanna Pacula in one of her first roles) whose skates were found on the feet of one of the victims. Eventually, Renko's prime suspect becomes an influential American (Lee Marvin), so the Moscow cop forms an uneasy alliance with a revenge-minded New York police detective (Brian Dennehy), whose son was one of the three murdered.

The movie is beautifully filmed, and the performances are top notch.

Even though it is a good picture, the filmmakers must now be killing themselves that it could have been a great movie with the freedom to do what they wanted to do:

  • The part of Moscow is played by Helsinki, and those cities are not very similar except for harsh winters. Imagine how spectacular it could be now, doing it for real in Moscow.
  • Some actors are good with accents, some aren't. A lot of very fine actors like William Hurt are better able to develop their characters without the constraints of an artificial accent. Besides, what is the logic in having a Russian (played by an American) speak English to other Russians with an English accent instead of an American accent. Huh? It would have been great to get rid of the pointless accent, even though he did it reasonably well.
  • There wasn't much heat between Pacula and Hurt. They either needed a rewrite or some retakes, or maybe the love story wasn't really essential anyway.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

  • no features

  • the sound is monaural

Despite those points, we both really liked the movie.
  • The international politics and the Russian internal politics were really interesting.
  • The police work was interesting to follow.
  • Brian Dennehy and Lee Marvin just couldn't have been cast any better. Those two guys were perfect for their roles. I also liked Hurt's thoughtful interpretation of the non-political policeman with integrity, walking in a dangerous world where everyone but him is a conspirator.
  • I think the ending is a real feel-good moment that provides a needed catharsis from Renko's tension, which we have been feeling along with him.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Maltin 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5, pretty consistent with Maltin's three stars.
  • With their dollars ... $16 million US gross.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B or a B-. Scoopy and Tuna agree on this range. Two thumbs up, despite some flaws.

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