dir. Yernar Nurgaliyev
Whilst discussing baby names with his pregnant wife, a heated argument ensues which sees Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) on the receiving end of constant put-downs. As a result he decides to escape for a day by taking a fishing trip with two old friends: an ineffectual police officer and sex-doll salesman. His hopes of unwinding in the wilds however – reconnecting with pals who’ve felt abandoned by this family man – are soon shattered when they cross paths a hapless gangster family and a one-eyed murderer on a violent rampage.
Director Nurgaliyev combines tones effectively, delivering a slice of Kazakhstani cinema that blends fun with ultraviolence, the comedy and gruesome kills working wonders on-screen. This balance is most impressive during a sequence which unfolds in silence, delivering macabre chuckles whilst wringing the tension. Less effective is a mid-point beat where the story runs out of steam, introducing an unnecessary element that threatens to become utterly misjudged for the sake of laughs.
It’s an odd moment that feels out of place, considering how much the film subverts the patriarchy and pokes fun at the ridiculousness of toxic masculinity. Whilst the male characters like to say “man up” their actions are far from the Hollywood ideal, and though it’s constantly violent throughout its 84-minute runtime nothing ultimately is solved by the bloodshed, rendering it as ineffectual a solution as if they used the blow-up dolls.