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Gorky Park (film)

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Gorky Park
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Apted
Screenplay byDennis Potter
Based onGorky Park
1981 novel
by Martin Cruz Smith
Produced by
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited byDennis Virkler
Music byJames Horner
Color processTechnicolor
Eagle Associates
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Release date
  • December 15, 1983 (1983-12-15)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$15.9 million[2]

Gorky Park is a 1983 American mystery thriller film based on the book of the same name by Martin Cruz Smith. The film was directed by Michael Apted.

The film stars William Hurt as Arkady Renko, Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne, Joanna Pacuła as Irina Asanova, Rikki Fulton as Major Pribluda, Brian Dennehy as William Kirwill, Ian McDiarmid as Professor Andreev, Michael Elphick as Pasha and Ian Bannen as Prosecutor Iamskoy. The plot follows Renko, a Moscow police investigator, on the trail of a gruesome triple murder that leads him into a web of government corruption.

Upon release, Gorky Park was a box office disappointment, barely earning back its $15 million budget, but received positive reviews from critics. Pacuła was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and Elphick for a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. Dennis Potter won a 1984 Edgar Award for his screenplay for the film.


Moscow militsiya officer Arkady Renko is called to a clearing near the Gorky Park ice rink, where three bodies – two men and one woman – have been discovered. All were shot in the chest and their faces and finger tips removed; the two men were also shot in the mouth. Renko becomes anxious when the KGB, led by his nemesis Major Pribluda, refuses to take over the investigation. Renko traces the dead woman's skates to a movie set worker, Irina Asanova, who claims they were stolen. The pathologist identifies one young man as a foreigner, likely an American. Renko asks Professor Levi Andreev to reconstruct the faces of the woman and the American man.

At the dacha of Chief Prosecutor Iamskoy, Renko makes the acquaintance of American sable importer Jack Osborne, who is accompanied by Asanova. Renko also crosses paths with William Kirwill, a New York detective investigating the disappearance of his brother James.

Renko eventually identifies the American as James Kirwill and the others as Valerya Davidova and her boyfriend Kostia Borodin. Renko and his partner, Pasha (Michael Elphick) interrogate Golodkin (Alexei Sayle), a black market dealer with KGB ties, who confesses that Osborne commissioned him to build a religious chest, but the three victims built another one. Renko sends Pasha with Golodkin to get the chest at his apartment, where they are both shot dead by an unseen assailant. Renko's suspicion of Osborne mounts following several polite but tense conversations. When a KGB officer attempts to kill Asanova with a forced overdose, Renko saves her. Hiding out in his apartment, they become involved romantically although she doesn't entirely trust him. Kirwill learns that Osborne's chest was designed to smuggle out six live sables and break the Soviet monopoly, potentially earning Osborne millions. Osborne had promised to smuggle Asanova's friends out of the Soviet Union; Asanova is convinced that Valerya has escaped to Manhattan and clings to the belief that Osborne will do the same for her.

Renko confronts Asanova with Prof. Andreev's reconstruction of Valerya's head, forcing her to accept she has been murdered. She confesses to the plot and flees. Renko and Kirwill go to retrieve James's reconstructed head, but a KGB agent emerges with it. They follow him to Iamskoy's dacha and watch in horror as Osborne and Iamskoy supervise the head's destruction. Renko confronts Iamskoy in a bath house and Iamskoy admits that he kept Renko on the case to pressure Osborne into paying a larger bribe so he could smuggle out the sables. He offers to cut Renko in, but Renko reveals that he has recorded their conversation. Iamskoy and Renko struggle over a gun, which goes off and kills Iamskoy.

Osborne flees to Stockholm, telling the KGB he will only deal with Renko. The KGB forces Renko to supervise a trade for the sables, with the understanding that both the sables and Osborne must be killed. Renko meets Osborne at his apartment and finds Asanova. She confesses that she slept with Osborne to gain his trust and has negotiated safe passage to America for both herself and Renko. She then reveals that Osborne is planning to double cross everyone, as he has twelve sables, not just six. Renko meets with Kirwill and they predict that, following the exchange, the KGB will kill Asanova, Renko and Osborne.

The next morning Renko, Pribluda and two other KGB agents drive to Osborne's secluded farm. They discover Kirwill tied to a tree and disemboweled; he came to get revenge for James and killed Osborne's dogs before being shot. Osborne produces six dead sables, but Renko, realizing neither side will let the other live, goads the KGB agents into attacking. In the ensuing shootout Pribluda and the KGB agents are killed; Renko manages to grab a gun and hide in the woods with Asanova. Moving closer to the farm, he discovers the remaining live sables caged up. Asanova emerges from the woods and Osborne threatens to kill her. When Renko emerges to give up, Asanova shoots Osborne. She asks Renko to go away with her, but Renko reveals he agreed to kill Osborne in return for her freedom, and that they would both be killed if he did not return. Renko returns to his job in Moscow.

Renko releases the sables, which run off into the woods as he recalls Asanova's promise that they will meet again one day.



Gene Kirkwood and Howard W. ("Hawk") Koch Jr. purchased the film rights to Gorky Park in 1981 for $250,000. Martin Cruz Smith claimed he was offered the chance to write the screenplay but turned it down.[3] Filming was delayed until February 1983 because of scheduling conflicts with the director John Schlesinger, who would eventually be replaced with Michael Apted, and various cast changes.

Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino were both considered for the role of Arkady Renko before Hurt's casting, while Cary Grant and Burt Lancaster were considered for the role of Jack Osborne and Roman Polanski was considered for the role of Prof. Andreev.

The Soviet Communist Party condemned the film as anti-Communist and anti-Russian and denied the crew access to shoot in Moscow.[4]

Gorky Park was filmed in Helsinki and Stockholm.[5] The Kaisaniemi public park in the Helsinki centre was set as the Gorky amusement park.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 78% based on reviews from 27 critics, with an average rating of 6.6/10.[7] On Metacritic the film has a score of 60% based on reviews from 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]

Janet Maslin called it "a taut, clever thriller throughout, with Mr. Apted's direction establishing its intensity immediately and sustaining it well. Ralf G. Bode's cinematography and James Horner's score go a long way toward setting a hauntingly bleak mood, and the supporting players, particularly Brian Dennehy and Ian Bannen, are excellent". Though she found it odd that Hurt would affect an English accent, she found his performance "rivetingly strange".[9]

Roger Ebert found the depiction of Soviet society to be the most interesting aspect of the film, and he credited Apted's direction for never letting the procedural lag. Ebert also praised the casting, even if it relied on typecasting an actor like Marvin. "He uses actors who are able to bring fully realized characters to the screen, so we don't have to stand around waiting for introductions".[10]

Home media[edit]

Gorky Park was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on April 1, 2003, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and to Blu-ray Disc by Kino Lorber (under license from MGM) on October 21, 2014.


  1. ^ Gorky Park at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ Gorky Park at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Martin Cruz Smith talks about Russia, life with Parkinson's and what's wrong with crime fiction". 10 December 2013.
  4. ^ "AFI Catalog". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2021-12-03.
  5. ^ "Gorky Park". Variety. January 1, 1983.
  6. ^ "Gorkin puisto (1983)" [Gorky Park]. Elokuvauutiset (in Finnish). 2008. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Gorky Park (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 31, 2021.
  8. ^ "Gorky Park". Metacritic.
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 16, 1983). "SCREEN: 'Gorky Park,' Murders in Moscow". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. (December 16, 1983) "Gorky Park" Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 8, 2012.

External links[edit]