A punishingly dreary portrait of eviscerated manhood, Gromozeka intercuts the parallel stories of three middle-aged schlubs undone by their inability to control—or even vaguely understand—female sexuality. Mostly, though, Vladimir Kott’s network narrative is just a study in unremitting bleakness, neither particularly enlightening nor entertaining—no matter how many limp stabs the director takes at leavening humor. In fact, for a film whose mise-en-scène (one man leveling a gun at another as a train speeds by overhead), moments of outrage (a variation on the infamous Lee Marvin/Gloria Grahame encounter in The Big Heat), and plotting (virtually everything) all seem borrowed from the standard-issue cinematic playbook, the most authentic thing about the film may be the utter rancidness of Kott’s vision of the universe.
Not that there’s anything wrong with offering up a pessimistic take on the state of the world, but Kott’s strategy seems to be simply to pile up outrage after outrage in order to evoke the maximum of human misery. Linking the stories of three former friends and bandmates via peripheral characters and visual rhymes (a strategy he leaned on heavily in his previous film The Fly), the director cuts between an emasculated cop beset by a demotion and a cheating wife, a surgeon who can’t work up the nerve to tell his spouse about his pregnant mistress and, in the least clichéd but ugliest storyline, a cabbie determined to mutilate his semi-estranged daughter after stumbling on her appearance in a porno film. From there, things only get worse. Situation not bleak enough? How about adding in a case of terminal lung cancer? Characters not sufficiently debased? Let’s try having our policeman utterly humiliated by a street gang.
Not everyone in Kott’s world is entirely lacking in humanity and all three of his characters are given their perfunctory redeemable moment at the film’s end, but any gestures toward something other than a facile miserabalism are token indeed. Unable to work up a philosophical or an absurdist—or really any—perspective on life’s myriad miseries, the most Kott can muster is a cheap, curtain-closing touch of irony.