EIFF 2017 – Guardians (Zaschitiniki)

Director: Sarik Andreasyan

Cast: Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sebastien Sisak, Alina Lanina, Stanislav Shirin, Valeria Shkirando

Run time: 94mins

Guardians is the kind of movie that is easy to hate against as it has clearly been made as a cynical attempt to cash in on the mega-success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that said it is not without its charms.

The basic premise here is that during the Cold War a group of superhumans were created under the auspices of a USSR sponsored program called Patriot. These superhumans were cut loose when the program was shut down and all of them subsequently went into hiding but due to the resurfacing of one of the scientists involved in the program, who had a lab accident and is ironically turned into an evil super villain, it is up to Major Elena Larina (Valeria Shrikando) to assemble a group of these very same superhumans from all across the former Soviet states… You know a bit like the Avengers…but in Russia.

Each of the recruited heroes is a bit like a Marvel hero. Khan (Sanjar Madi) looks just like the Winter Soldier, except Kazakh, with added Nightcrawler type powers. Arsius (Anton Pampushnyy) is a “Were-bear” which is kind of unique but his character is really just like the films version of the Hulk. Kseniya (Alina Lanina) is basically Susan Storm and finally Ler (Sebastien Sisak) has telekinetic powers over rocks which when he is wearing them like armour is reminiscent of The Thing but welded onto the personality of Colossus although maybe a bit more on the quippy side. Finally Valeria Shrikando as Major Larina gets to be both Black Widow and Nick Fury at the same time. That said the team are a likable bunch and easy to cheer on. Also the intro scenes for each character are nicely done.

Despite the relatively short running time for a superhero flick, a svelte 94 mins, we do actually get to delve a little bit into the backstories of each character. As is typical for this sort of film the women get shorter shrift than the men. As it seems, at times, that Kseniya is largely there so we can get close-ups of her bottom. On the other hand while Major Larina maybe all skintight clothing and cheekbones she does get some of the better lines. Generally though the writing is far from top drawer with some of it positively laughable. For example a scene where Arsius warns Major Larina about not allowing him to go “full bear” included several ludicrous lines, all played with maximum solemnity from both actors, and caused ruptures of laughter at the screening I attended.

It is not all so laughable though, far from it. For a movie which was made for a paltry, by Hollywood standards, $5 million the CGI is generally very impressive throughout. In fact the film generally looks good; seemingly taking visual inspiration from the Nightwatch/Daywatch films. There is also a bunch of standout action sequences. The main villain too, while a generic mad scientist who wants to take over the world and who comes on like an even more roided up Bane crossed with Magneto, is played with absolute relish and dementedness by Stanislav Shirin. Also despite its current IMDB

score (3.9!) it is roughly 10 times better than any Asylum “Mockbuster” or a lot of the other blockbuster rip-off movies that are out there.

Verdict: It is a Marvel rip-off through-and-through even down to the sequel-bait ending and post-credit scene and it is nobody’s idea of a great, or even particularly good, film but it an entirely watchable one with some very good effects and some decent action. Plus there is a Bear with a Gatling-gun in it which is a recommendation in itself.

words by Scott Murphy