Review: By the Will of Genghis Khan DVD

STUDIO: MTI | DIRECTOR: Andre Borissov | CAST: Eduard Ondar, Susanna Orzhak, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Oleg Taktarov
RELEASE DATE: 9/28/10 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
SPECS: NR | 120 min. | Foreign language historical war | 16:9 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Russian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Coming from out east, the Russian movie By the Will of Genghis Khan is a big, brawny retelling of history’s greatest expert on mass pillage.

By the Will of Genghis KhanThe movie is set entirely against the breathtaking backdrop of the Mongolian steppes. The cast consists of Chinese, Mongols and one Japanese-American; and the soundtrack is fully in Russian with dialog in English subtitles.

Genghis Khan’s packaging suggests that it will be something like a Western big budget sword and sandal epic, but that’s more of a marketing move by MPI to hopefully move a few extra DVD copies off the shelf. In fact, both the production values and the movie’s subject matter are more dirty jerkins than gleaming armor.

The film reminds me of cultural fare such as Zacharias Kunuk’s Fast Runner, as opposed to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. But that’s not to imply the battle scenes are any less pulse-pounding, or that the action is any less brutal. In fact, there are brief instances where a column of what must be hundreds of horsemen in period costume come galloping down a vale, and these are not digitally populated armies like in modern American medieval films, but real flesh and blood Russian extras on real horses that the producer must have commandeered for his first-time director from every village for miles around.

The men who play Genghis‘s tribal warriors are convincingly brawny and ruthless and share a good deal of humor and camaraderie, but I admit that through multiple translations and with several replacements of various roles as characters age, I had trouble keeping track of who was who.

The narrative flow is a little different from what a Western audience might expect, moving in repetitive fits and starts rather than the gradual character development (or none at all!) found in Hollywood films. But that’s one of the things that makes Genghis a “foreign” film.


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About Alex

Alex Kikuchi loves movies of every size and variety and has fancied himself a film critic ever since Mystery Science Theater made it look so easy when he was a kid in the 1990s.