The title sounds like a mall destination for pink hoodies. But the provenance of Cargo 200 is much darker; this was the name given to military corpses coming back to the Soviet Union from the Afghan front. Alexey Balabanov’s gruesome little charmer of a black comedy—a goth cousin to Delicatessen—is set in the gray, decaying environs of Leninsk, essentially a more depressing version of Pittsburgh. It is 1984, and perestroika is yet to come. A piggish brute of a local cop (Poluyan, uncannily resembling Putin) has his corrupt way with unfortunate citizens, while a pencil-necked academic (Gromov) blathers his way into some highly soused trouble with rural moonshiners.
So yes: a kind of humor, but maybe one needs vodka in their veins to enjoy it. Modern Russian cinema is impossible to conceive of without the specter of its citizens’ unhappier days. Many of the jokes of Cargo 200 will sail over our American heads, but the point here is that Balabanov is joking, and his irreverence crosses the border. Even when the movie enters its Texas Chain Saw Massacre phase, complete with a spooky barn and a young woman handcuffed to a bed, there’s a compelling subtext that Leatherface is paid his wages by the government. Our filmmakers should be so bold.
Cast and crew