Brother (1997 film)

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Russian theatrical release poster
Directed byAleksei Balabanov
Written byAleksei Balabanov
Produced bySergei Selyanov
StarringSergei Bodrov, Jr.
Viktor Sukhorukov
Yury Kuznetsov
Music byVyacheslav Butusov
CTB Film Company
Distributed byKino International Corp.
Release dates
17 May 1997
Running time
95 minutes
Box office$1.4 million

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.[2]

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.


After Danila Bagrov (Sergei Bodrov Jr.), a recently discharged Chechen War veteran, is insisted by his mother that he travel to Saint Petersburg to seek out his successful older brother Viktor, whom his mother is confident will help him make a living. He does, and there 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", working for a St. Peterburg mafia boss called "Krugliy" (Russian for "round"), His latest target is "The Chechen", a Chechen mafia boss who was recently released from prison. Krugliy, who is unhappy with the amount of money that Viktor demanded for the hit, orders his thugs to watch The Chechen, so that he can kill The Tatar to avoid paying him.

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, and he agrees. While settling in, Danila boards a public bus and when an Armenian man refuses to pay the fare, Danila steps in and forces him to pay at gunpoint. Danila makes a pipe bomb and blows up The Chechen, and Krugliy's thugs spot and chase him, but he manages to escape by jumping into a tram and killing one of the mobsters, the tram driven by a woman named Sveta.

After Danila recovers, he decides to meet up with her, despite her being married to an abusive husband.

Meanwhile, Krugliy is angry, and decides to draw The Tatar 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. A young radio director, Stephan, mistakes the raided flat for the party flat and is almost killed by the thugs, who take him captive. There is a party in a different apartment with members of Nautilus Pompilius, and lead singer Vyacheslav Butusov mistakes this apartment for the one and is turned away by Danila. Bored of the waiting, Danila decides to go to the party above. Some time afterward, he comes back to find the thugs killed their primary target and a hostage, and are about to do the same with Stephan, but Danila kills them.

Krugliy, 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 him, Danila's CD player stopping Mole's bullet. Danila travels to Sveta's house and is shocked.

At the same time, Krugliy raids Viktor's apartment and forces him to call Danila at gunpoint, urging him to come over. Realizing the depth of the situation, Danila goes back to the communal room that he was renting and buys a shotgun from his landlord. He modifies the shells from birdshot rounds to cut nails. At Viktor's apartment, he takes a mobster hostage and kills Krugliy 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.

Danila forgives Viktor and gives him some of the money from Krugliy's suitcase, telling him to return home and to work for the militsiya. Before leaving for Moscow, he visits Sveta, and upon finding her husband beating her, he shoots him in his leg before leaving, to which Sveta says she doesn't love him anymore for such an action. He then says goodbye to Hoffman and Kat, before hitching a ride to Moscow on a passing truck.


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

Production crew[edit]


Brother was selected for screening at a number of Russian and international film festivals, where it won many awards. The festivals include, among others:[3]

  • 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 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 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 are 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.[4]


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.[5] 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.[6]


  • 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. pp. 39–65. ISBN 9781482300475.


  1. ^ Lang, Robert (2022-11-07). "Movies With Lowest Budgets To Earn $1 Million, From 'Clerks' And 'The Blair Witch Project' To 'Eraserhead' & More – Photo Gallery". Deadline. Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Traveling Companion". Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Brother (1997), retrieved 2021-01-08
  5. ^ Народное кино: «Брат 2» и «Война»
  6. ^ "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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