Until this film, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sencov was better known to me for the problems he found himself in after Russia arrested him in Crimea in May 2014 and soon sentenced him to 20 years in prison on charges that he planned some sort of planning on the peninsula where he was born. terrorist attacks. Sencov spent almost five and a half years in Russian prisons, and Amnesty International and many other world organizations warned that the accusations were fabricated and demanded his release. Numerous European filmmakers sent open letters demanding his release, and after nearly dying in prison after a hunger strike, Sencev was finally released in September 2019 as part of a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia.
And all the while the Western European media followed Sencov’s case with interest, I knew little about his film achievements, but after this film it is obvious that Sencov is an excellent director to pay attention to. “Rhino” is just a seemingly simple, simplistic drama about the rise and fall of a typical Eastern European gangster during the 1990s, an almost typical Scarface story, but “Nosorih” is a shockingly realistic crime drama in which there is not a second to take a break. And while similar gangster sagas usually last at least two and a half, three hours, Sencov managed to squeeze in just over an hour and a half a depiction of the collapse of the socialist bloc and what degenerated after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to the capitalist system.
It is a film that is on the trail of the cult Russian “Brother” Alexei Balabanov, but “Rhino” is even better for me, more brutal, realistic, brutal and raw film that completely coldly and without emotions on the example of a gangster smasher shows that brutal time. And “Rhino” starts great from the beginning and from the introductory scene that lasts about ten minutes in which we get an impressive insight into what growing up and youth looked like in the terminal phase of communism. We see here from childhood to early youth the life of a young man who will become part of a local criminal organization under the nickname Rhinoceros and what shaped and created him. And everything here is really shocking, brutal, hyperrealistic, even too real and intense because very soon the Rhino will realize that he does not want to live the typical low-life life of his parents, but wants something more.
In such a post-Soviet environment for guys who look like they’ve been ripped off a cliff something more practical was joining a gang. And just like any similar gangster saga, the Rhinoceros moves like a petty thief and scoundrel, and very soon he will turn into the Ukrainian Tony Montana, a ruthless killer and smasher who does not dare to do anything. What we see in Oleg Sencov’s film is more than frightening and shocking, mostly because it was really like that. There is no mercy here, and not only the strongest survive, but also the most brutal, the most bloodthirsty, the most cruel, and that is exactly what the Rhinoceros is like. This is not that it’s a total Wild West, but “Rhino” is probably the best movie I’ve watched, and that thematizes those raw, wild, Russian, or Ukrainian gangster organizations that sprang up in the interspace of socialism and capitalism.
The spirit of the time is captured in an impressive way and one has to cringe when one realizes that something very similar was happening in reality. And that they are not those members of the criminal underworld who are invisible to the outside like the good old Cosa Nostra, but they are raw and cruel lunatics who make fun of anyone who gets in their way simply because they can. Nobody can do anything to them and they know it very well and they behave that way. They smash their heads with baseball bats, they kill without thinking, these gangs are fighting each other in the most cruel ways possible. But most frightening of all, as time goes on, all these guys, like everyone else in all these wild systems, will become respectable members of society.
Rhinoceros points out that one of the members of the crime organization sees him today as a politician on television, and until yesterday they burned living people together. The role of the Rhinoceros is fantastic by the young Ukrainian actor Serhiy Filimonov. His character is himself a complete lunatic, a savage killer, but he is also the narrator of the whole story and leads us through all that time. “Rhino” can also be seen as a parable to the whole period of the transition nineties and the time when the guys who managed best may not be like Rhino, but the guys he worked for. The guys that this young man despises at the same time, but these are the guys who gave him the life he had, but also the life he hates and rejects, but he just can’t. It was “Rhino” an impressive film, a brutal and shocking crime drama that hits all the senses and not at all a glamorous gangster saga like we’ve never seen before.