In Soviet countries, it was claimed that they did not have serial killers and similar monsters, and that something like this could only happen in countries that accepted “rotten” capitalism, but of course that was not the case. The inspiration for this impressive dark thriller, the Russian filmmaker of the younger generation Lado Kvatani, for whom “Punishment” or “The Execution” was his feature film debut, was found in the case of Andrej Čikatil. A serial killer known as the Butcher of Rostov who killed at least fifty women between 1978 and 1990. I have the impression that Kwatania found the inspiration for making this film in terms of style and visuals mostly in Korean revenge thrillers, so “Punishment” might be best described as the Soviet “Memories of a Murder”. Only much more brutal, darker, more shocking, callous and more horrible.
The plot here is set non-linearly and we set off in 1991 when Inspector Isa Davidov (Niko Tavadze) realized that they had probably convicted the wrong man for a series of brutal murders. Then we return to the finish of the seventies when a series of murders began and when the corpses of women and girls began to appear in the woods. In parallel, we follow the story from the beginning of the nineties, and through flashbacks we also follow what the investigation of the eighties looked like and how Davidov and his team found a guy who was then quickly sentenced to death. And Davidov acts as one of those typical tortured detectives who dedicated their lives to the case and neglected the family, and what is especially shocking and what distinguishes “The Execution” from similar American films of this genre is the astonishing brutality.
And not only crimes, but we see that Soviet investigative techniques are equally brutal, and this takes place during the terminal phase of the Soviet Union, and everything here seems gray, rusty, muddy. There is a general lack of prospects, the society is in complete disarray, and the police are under pressure from their superiors to resolve such cases, which the public does not even know about, as soon as possible. “Punishment” is not a classic true crime thriller in which the case of a murderer is factually followed, but Čakatilo served as an inspiration to Kvatanija and co-screenwriter Olga Gorodetskaya to record a dark story about the fight between good and evil. And it’s not unambiguous because it hides “The Execution” with many surprises and shocking twists, and it was one of the best thrillers of recent years. Rating 8.5 / 10.
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