Branded (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jamie Bradshaw
|Written by||Jamie Bradshaw
Max von Sydow
|Music by||Edward Artemyev
Brain & Melissa
|Edited by||Michael Blackburn|
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions|
Branded (also known as The Mad Cow and Moscow 2017 (Москва 2017 in Russian)) is a 2012 Russian–American dark fantasy science fiction film written and directed by Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn. It was released on September 7, 2012.
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In 1984 Communist Russia, a kid named Misha looks at a strange cow constellation while waiting his turn in a long line of people for some government service when the constellation looks back at him. Realizing that it is his turn, the boy runs to the end of the line but is stuck by lightning.
In present-day Russia, Misha (Ed Stoppard) has grown up to become a high-powered marketing executive working with Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor), an American hired to spread Western brands and businesses in post-Communist Russia that works for the CIA. When Bob's niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski) comes to visit from America, Bob warns Misha to keep away from her, but despite this, Abby and Misha drift into a relationship.
Meanwhile, on a Polynesian island, a group of fast-food executives gather to consult the marketing guru Joseph Pascal as fast food has lost favor. Pascal proposes an ambitious (and illegal) plan to change beauty standards so obesity becomes popular.
Misha is hired to do marketing for a new reality TV show, Extreme Cosmetica, where an overweight girl will undergo extensive plastic surgery to become skinny and beautiful, but ends in disaster, with a contestant falling into a coma. The public turns against the show, and the glorification of skinny body types in general, and Misha, as the show's marketer, becomes the scapegoat. Later, he confronts Bob, believing he orchestrated the event to drive Misha and Abby apart, they get into a fight where Misha confesses he has been giving Bob false information, and Bob has a heart attack and dies. Misha leaves Moscow and withdraws from modern society.
Six years later, Abby tracks Misha down to a rural community where he is lives a simple life as a cowherd. While Abby is visiting, Misha has a strange dream. In a dreamlike state, he performs the Red Heifer ritual, sacrificing a red cow and bathing in its ashes. When he wakes up, he discovers to his horror that he has developed the ability to see strange eel- or blob-like creatures which cling to people's necks and appear to be the embodiment of marketing brand desires.
Abby takes Misha back to Moscow, where she reveals that they have a six-year-old son, who is overweight and loves "The Burger" and other junk-food brands. In the intervening years, the "fat is fabulous" campaign has changed society; everyone is overweight, and images of obese people are used in advertising everywhere. Distressed by his grotesque visions and disgusted by the rampant commercialism around him, Misha impulsively trashes Abby's apartment. Frightened by his behavior, Abby leaves Misha and takes their son with her.
Connecting the dots, Misha becomes aware of the fast-food conspiracy and develops a plan to fight back using their own methods. Going back to his old company, he accepts a job to do marketing for vegetarian Chinese restaurant chain Dim Song and, paralleling Pascal's speech to the fast food executives earlier in the movie, promises to fix Dim Song's problems. Misha creates a fake anti-beef scare (using the public's fear of a mysterious virus similar to mad cow disease) to frighten people from eating meat, thus turning them towards vegetarian food.
The scare works, and burger sales drop precipitously. From a rooftop, Misha watches a dragon-like entity hatch from an egg on top of the Dim Song building and fly towards The Burger restaurant, ripping apart and killing The Burger's corporate embodiment. Misha predicts that The Burger will go bankrupt within a week, which comes true. On the Polynesian island, Pascal tells the fast food executives they are in trouble, but before he can tell them his new plan, he is vaporized by a bolt of lightning.
Misha continues to destroy the world's major brands by using fear-based marketing to make customers afraid of them one by one, represented by the brand creatures flying over the city attacking and killing one another. Public opinion turns against marketing in general, and the Russian parliament considers a bill banning all advertising. Depressed and alone in his corporate office, Misha leaves a message on Abby's cellphone, lamenting how his plan made everything worse and requesting her forgiveness, when Abby arrives to see him. The building is raided by anti-advertising protesters, who assault the employees, and Misha is struck down while he and Abby try to escape. An emergency broadcast plays on TV, announcing that Russia and the other nations of the world have agreed to ban all advertising.
Some time later, after this come into effect, Misha awakens in the hospital with Abby and his son. In another room in the same hospital, the "Extreme Cosmetica" contestant awakens from her coma and wanders out into the advertising-free city streets. The narrator explains that Misha changed the world forever, panning up into the night sky to reveal that the narrator is the cow constellation young Misha saw at the beginning of the movie.
- Ed Stoppard as Misha Galkin
- Leelee Sobieski as Abby Gibbons
- Max von Sydow as Joseph Pascal
- Jeffrey Tambor as Bob Gibbons
- Ingeborga Dapkunaite as Dubcek
- Rachel Davies as the Cow
The film was released in America on September 7, 2012 in 310 theaters.
The film was not screened for critics and has received predominantly negative reviews. Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com declared that "everything you've heard about Branded was false advertising," complaining that the trailers made the film appear to be "a weird, surrealistic version of They Live" but "unfortunately, instead of a fun monster movie, Branded is a truly dreary lecture on late-stage capitalism, in which logic basically goes out the window." Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "convoluted and pretentious... so packed with ideological pretension and forced whimsy it has no time for characterization or cohesion, despite its scrappy use of post-Communist Russia as ground zero for capitalism's next nightmare scenario." Lucius Shepard, admitting he did not understand the story fully, wrote that he wanted to sue the filmmakers "for defamation of the senses," adding, "Not since MST3K went off the air have I watched a movie so lacking in basic competence and craft." He acknowledged, "Branded is also a satire, though it undergoes drastic and abrupt shifts in tone that suggest a more dramatic production." In one of the few positive reviews, Andy Webster of the New York Times called the film "ambitious", observing that "Madison Avenue is going to hate Branded."
- Charlie Jane Anders. "Everything you've heard about Branded was false advertising". Io9.com. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Robert Abele (2012-09-09). "'Branded' could use a little commercial appeal: Review". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
- Shepard, Lucius (January–February 2013). "Films: Intelligence for Dummies". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Hoboken, N.J.: Spilogale. 124 (1 & 2): 144.
- Webster, Andy (7 Sep 2012). "A Marketing Man Fights the Madness". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-17.