Brother (1997 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAleksei Balabanov
Written byAleksei Balabanov
Produced bySergei Selyanov
StarringSergei Bodrov, Jr.
Viktor Sukhorukov
Yury Kuznetsov
Vyacheslav Butusov
Music byVyacheslav Butusov
CTB Film Company
Distributed byKino International Corp.
Release dates
17 May 1997
Running time
95 minutes
Budget$10,000–$20,000[citation needed]

Brother (Russian: Брат, translit. Brat) is a 1997 Russian neo-noir crime drama film written and directed by Aleksei Balabanov. The film stars Sergei Bodrov Jr. as Danila Bagrov, a young ex-conscript who becomes embroiled with the Saint Petersburg mob through his criminal older brother. It appeared in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

After its release on VHS in June 1997, Brother unexpectedly became one of the most commercially successful Russian films of the 1990s and quickly rose to cult film status throughout Russia. Due to the film's popularity and fan demand, a sequel, Brother 2, was released in 2000.


The film begins after the protagonist, Danila Bagrov (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) returns to his small home town following his demobilisation from the Russian Army. Even before he reaches home, he ends up in a fight with security guards, when he accidentally walks onto a film set. The local police release him, on the condition that he will find work, and we learn that his late father, once a classmate of the precinct, was a thief in law and died in prison. His mother, not wishing for him to share his father's fate, insists he travels to Saint Petersburg to seek out his successful older brother Viktor, whom his mother is confident will help him make a living.

Danila travels to Saint Petersburg, but his attempts to make contact with Viktor are unsuccessful. Instead, he wanders around the city. He befriends Kat, an energetic drug addict, and "The German" Hoffman, a homeless street vendor whom Danila helps after a thug attempts to extort him.

Unbeknown to their mother, Viktor is an accomplished hitman who goes by the street name "The Tatar" but is growing too independent and is starting to irritate his mob boss, "Roundhead." His latest target is "The Chechen," a Chechen mafia boss who was recently released from prison and now runs a market. Roundhead, who is unhappy with the amount of money that Viktor demanded for the hit, orders his thugs to watch him in secret.

Danila eventually meets up with Viktor. To avoid exposure, Viktor passes his assignment to his brother, gives him money to settle into the city, and then lies to him that the Chechen has been extorting from him, asking Danila to perform the hit. Danila agrees, monitors the Chechen's frequent visits, asks the Hoffman to find him a room in a communal flat in the city centre. With a makeshift silencer and a decoy firecracker he takes him out without being spotted by the latter's security. As Danila makes his exit, Roundhead's thugs spot and chase him. Making his escape, Danila jumps into a freight tram and, despite being wounded, manages to kill one of the pursuing thugs.

The tram driver, a woman named Sveta, helps Danila escape, who recovers and meets up with her. Despite being married to an abusive husband, the two begin an affair. With the money given to him by Viktor after the hit, he begins to enjoy Saint Petersburg, gives his provincial image a makeover, takes Sveta out to a concert of his favourite Nautilus Pompilius, and manages to scare away her husband. At the same time he also meets up with Kat to go to a nightclub, smokes cannabis in an afterparty and sleeps with her afterwards.

Meanwhile, Roundhead is angry about losing one of his men and the fact that Viktor used delegated someone else to carry out the hit, and decides to draw him into a combined raid. Viktor, again suspecting a trap, passes the job to Danila once more. The two thugs raid the apartment, but their main target is away. While they wait, in an apartment on the floor above, a party is taking place with several well-known Russian rock musicians. A young radio director, Stepan mistakes the raided flat for the party flat and is almost killed by the thugs, who take him captive. Vyacheslav Butusov, the lead singer of Nautilus Pompilius, makes the same mistake, but is saved by Danila, who opens the door. Danila, bored of the waiting, follows Butusov to the party above and relaxes in the friendly musical atmosphere. Some time aftewards he comes back downstairs to find the thugs killed their primary target, and are about to do the same with Stepan. Danila prevents this and kills both thugs. The corpses are dragged to the Smolensky Lutheran Cemetery, where the Hoffman helps Danila dispose of the bodies.

Roundhead is furious finding out what happened. Instead of going after Viktor, he decides to track Danila and intercepts Sveta's tram. They later raid her apartment, where his men beat and rape her, and learn his phone number, as well as his address. A henchman nicknamed "Mole" ambushes Danila near his apartment building, but Danila manages to kill Mole. Realising that staying home is unsafe, he travels to Sveta's house and is shocked at her state. He learns that Roundhead was responsible and realises that the only way they could have tracked Sveta was when he returned a phone call from her home telephone to his brother.

At the same time, Roundhead raids Viktor's apartment and forces him to call Danila at gunpoint, urging him to come over. Realising the depth of the situation, Danila goes back to the communal room that he was renting, and buys a shotgun from his landlord, converts it into a sawn off, and replaces the duck-hunting pellets with nailheads. At Viktor's apartment, he takes out Roundhead and two of his henchmen and tells the surviving thug to warn the rest of the gang that he will kill anyone who hurts his brother. In reply, the thug tells him that it was Viktor who turned him in, as Danila already suspected.

Danila forgives his brother, gives him some of the money from Roundhead's suitcase, and then tells him to return home and to work for the militsiya. Danila decides to go to Moscow. He visits Sveta, intending to take her with him, but her husband has returned and is beating her. Seeing Danila, he challenges him to a fight, but Danila fires a shot into his thigh beforehand. Sveta rushes to her husband and begins to treat his wound. Danila urges her to leave with him, but she tells him to get out and never come back. He then meets up with Hoffman, and two converse about the influence of the city on its residents, saying that everyone is weak here, to which the German replies that the city is an evil force that drains the strength from those who enter it. Danila offers him money, but Hoffman declines, saying "What's good for the Russian is death for the German." Before he leaves the city, he finds Kat to say goodbye. She is indifferent to his departure, but he gives her money nonetheless.

The last scene of the film shows Danila walking out of a snow-covered forest. He hitches a ride to Moscow on a passing truck. As he chats with the driver, the final shot is of the winter road stretching far into the wilderness.


The film also features brief appearances from several Russian rock musicians:

Production crew[edit]


The entire filming process took place within 31 days, on a small budget of approximately $10,000. The actors worked for little to no pay and, due to the low budget, wore their own clothes on set throughout most of the film. Some clothing was bought second-hand at flea markets, such as Danila's sweater that he wears throughout most of the film. Most of the film was shot in Saint Petersburg on Vasilyevsky Island; the first six minutes of the film, set in Danila's hometown of Priozersk, were shot on location, with the scene where Danila walks onto a film set taking place outside the walls of Korela Fortress.

Svetlana Pismichenko learned how to operate a tram for her role as Sveta. During the filming of the scene where Sveta's husband is shot in the leg by Danila, the actor playing him (Vladimir Ermilov) really was wounded in the leg due to an accident with the pyrotechnics. Before the filming of the last scene, where Danila hitchhikes on a truck, the crew realized that none of the actors knew how to operate a truck. Because of this, Sergei Astakhov, the film's camera operator, played a brief role as the truck driver.[citation needed]


Brother was selected for screening at a number of Russian and international film festivals, where it won many awards. The festivals include, among others:[2]

  • Sozvezdie

The film was released on VHS in June 1997 and premiered on television on 12 December 1997.[citation needed]


The film became an instant hit, and raised the fortunes of both Sergey Bodrov and director Aleksei Balabanov. The story's depiction revolves around the problems and attitudes of the 1990s Russia: crime, poverty (in face of the homeless Hoffman), the disaffection of the Russian youth (as with the character Kat), failing families (as with Sveta and her abusive husband) and of course, betrayal and hypocrisy even towards the most closest of relatives (such as Viktor first using Danila as cover, and then turning him over). All this was brought about in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, which took place only six years prior. Yet, despite such negative connotation amid the social decay, it illustrates that there is still courage and good in the face of Danila, who is portrayed as having an acute sense of right and wrong, and appears to follow some semblance of a moral code. As such it carries a powerful psychological message to the Russian audience that even in such gloomy times there is still hope.

Critical response[edit]

Brother has an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 5 reviews, and an average rating of 7.63/10.[3]



Following the film's success, Balabanov initially planned on making a Brother trilogy: the second instalment was to take place in Moscow and the third in America. During the writing phase, however, he abandoned this idea and combined the second and third parts into a single sequel instead.[4] Brother 2 is notable for having a significantly higher budget, placing more emphasis on action sequences, and being set in Moscow and Chicago.


Track listing[edit]

1."During the rain (Во время дождя)"Nautilus Pompilius3:49
2."Wings (Крылья)"Nautilus Pompilius3:48
3."Gentle vampire (Нежный вампир)"Nautilus Pompilius3:53
4."Three tsars (Три царя)"Nautilus Pompilius4:25
5."Air (Воздух)"Nautilus Pompilius5:16
6."People on the hill (Люди на холме)"Nautilus Pompilius5:09
7."Flying Frigate (Летучий фрегат)"Anastasia Poleva3:21
8."Mother of the Gods (Матерь богов)"Nautilus Pompilius4:37
9."Clap Clap (Хлоп-хлоп)"Nautilus Pompilius4:00
10."For nothing (Даром)"Anastasia Poleva3:51
11."Black birds (Чёрные птицы)"Nautilus Pompilius3:26
12."The beast (Зверь)"Nautilus Pompilius6:59
13."People on the hill (demo) (Люди на холме (демо))"Nautilus Pompilius3:20


In the 2018 music video for her song "90", the Russian singer-songwriter Monetochka reenacts scenes from Brother.[5]


  • MacKay, John (2015). "Balabanov's Brother (1997): Cinema as salvage operation" – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Österberg, Ira (2018). What Is That Song? Aleksej Balabanov's Brother and Rock as Film Music in Russian Cinema (Ph.D. thesis). University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-4124-8.
  • Weinhold, Florian (2013). Path of Blood: The Post-Soviet Gangster, His Mistress and Their Others in Aleksei Balabanov's Genre Films. North Charleston, SC: Reaverlands Books. p. 39–65. ISBN 9781482300475.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Traveling Companion". Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  2. ^ Osterberg, I.; Beumers, B.; et al. (2022). Aleksei Balabanov: 'Brother'. KinoSputnik. Intellect Books Limited. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-78938-485-7. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  3. ^ Brother (1997), retrieved 2021-01-08
  4. ^ Народное кино: «Брат 2» и «Война»
  5. ^ "Monetochka's new music video about Russia's crime-addled 1990s is modeled on a classic cult film". Meduza. 2018-08-21. Archived from the original on 2018-08-22. Retrieved 2020-10-30.

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