I spent around a week trying to find internal strength and summon all my abilities to write a couple of words about this movie. I was pondering about deceitful marketing, lying trailers and tough destiny of ordinary picturegoers, who have to put up with the fact that you know nothing about the movie until you actually see it, and thus they take immense risks of watching something they won’t like. To cut the long story short, I was trying to come up with the way to explain why Branded is the worst movie I have seen in my life.
Should I talk about actors? Ed Stoppard is simply not good enough for this role, he looks lost; Jeffrey Tambor does not convince as the US spy; Leelee Sobieski only impresses in the undress scene. Style? The movie tries to copy Generation P (2011), lively and hilarious story about Russian advertising market in 90s straight after USSR broke up, but Branded is not even close in its emulation. Directors? Although there were two directors, I didn’t notice major contribution of either of them. If anything, they only ruined the film by amateurish execution.
How can the movie be such a failure on every single side and facet? Why such trash is still possible to produce and, moreover, sell to the audience? I have come to believe that this failure started from the plot, and once the plot was agreed upon, the film was sentenced. So, here is the plot.
Meet the main hero of our story - Misha Galkin. He is a pretty successful advertising man, he lives in Moscow and he strives to produce the best ads in the world. On the advertising awards of some kind, he sees his boss, Bob Gibbons, who refuses to promote him further and takes his award, and he meets Abby Gibbons, niece of Bob with remarkable breasts. Then the usual staff about “Don’t touch my niece or you will never see anything good in your life bla-bla-bla” follows, and the movie seems to be sane.
But don’t make hasty judgments. Better, meet The Marketing Guru, who is now in charge of making the fast food companies more popular as they are losing their ground to the healthy food doctrine. The Marketing Guru rolls his eyes out, reminding the audience of aged Homer Simpson, and asks how far the companies would want to go to succeed. “Going illegal is not good enough…” he says with a voice reminiscent of evil wizards from a fairytale.
Misha meanwhile recalls his journey to become the advertising top-manager, largely unnecessary step from the plot perspective, but this is the only bit looking like Generation P. There is even small kiosk where Misha started (how much closer one can get to Generation P?). From this historical excursion, we learn that Bob is actually US spy, and he saved Misha from imminent loss of anal virginity by soldering-iron in return for the information about Misha’s clients. What kind of information can advertising executive learn is not clear though.
Abby and Misha, of course, start to date, and decide to make a reality show about flabby woman becoming thin after surgery. Bob sees Abby and Misha having sex in the car stuck in the traffic jam (he is in the next car, what are the chances?), becomes angry and breaks all relationships with Misha. The show becomes popular, until the day when the model tries to exit the show day before the surgery and then she falls in coma during the operation. Abby and Misha are shocked and are trying to find the way out.
This part was sloppy; the storyline was badly written and even worse executed. But this was still not that bad. The real nightmare and silent horror started straight afterward. Just follow me.
Misha tries to escape the unwanted attention from the angry crowd (who believes that Misha is responsible for the coma of the model), but he got arrested (with no charges?). He spends awhile in prison, and during this time the master plan of The Marketing Guru comes to the fruition – being fat is popular again. The Marketing Guru is happy and wants to use the same technology in the US. Sounds like paranoia? It is, I am afraid. Misha is freed from the custody by Bob, in return Abby agrees to go back to the US. Misha believes that the coma of the model was rigged by Bob (who sensibly explains that he simply doesn’t have enough money), and tells his boss that the information he gave to Bob was fake (told you, advertising execs do not have any valuable information). Bob is so surprised that he dies straightaway. Misha leaves Moscow and settles down in little village.
Some time passes by, Misha is bearded shepherd now and Abby returns to Russia to find him. Of course, she by chance knows the exact village where Misha resides, and of course she recognizes him in bearded shepherd. She tries to persuade him to go back to Moscow, but he refuses as he believes that his talent (even though he clearly does not have any) is capable of killing people. Abby cannot survive in tough Russian village environment and decides to leave.
Now the best part starts. Misha sees the dream inside the dream (I won’t even bother telling you where they took this from), in which he saw the ritual. So he builds huge wooden structure, waits till sunset staring at the white cow, which turns red. He kills the cow with the axe on this wooden structure, and then he burns this whole thing down. He takes ashes and spill them on himself, and then he loses consciousness while running naked towards the sun.
That would be the perfect end to our misery, but no – Misha wakes up in Abby’s car, in Moscow; and now he sees THEM. They are huge CGI socks growing from peoples’ necks. These socks are peoples’ desires, and Misha cannot even have proper sex because he sees them everywhere, and they scare him because they are ugly drawn in Ghostbusters fashion rather than using modern technology. They feed bigger plastic things sitting on top of buildings, and their goal is to represent authors’ disgust with the modern brands and our addiction to them, but apart from representing authors’ paranoia and lack of skill they do not represent anything.
Misha quickly learns how to initiate battles between brands, and we see how one low-poly model kills another low-poly model, tears it apart and gets eaten by third weird brand. The Marketing Guru is struck by lightning, general public is unhappy, they want to kill Misha, but when they break into his office, Russian President speaks up and says that advertising has been banned. The end, everyone leaves happily thereafter.
If you read until here, then you probably realised that this plot was destined to fail. It does not even matter who sits in the director’s chair, who is producer and who is in the cast - the plot that does not have any sanity or general sense of direction, which jumps from one film quote to another, does not have any chances. What does matter is why this is possible. Why the cinema industry hit such a low point. Why there are people with liquefied brains and with zero personal judgment who go to the cinema to see this instead of, say, Amour by Haneke, Melancholia by Trier or Hugo by Scorsese - or any other movie that actually brings something material to the table, which makes you think and feel something more complicated than mere disgust.
I believe that it is mission of the cinematograph – to educate, to show what is good art and what is bad, to inculcate the taste for the art. This film only serves to raise some money from people who would buy into skillfully made trailer which makes it look like alien invasion rather than schizophrenic hallucinations.
0 out of 10, and I hope that I won’t see anything like that for the rest of my life.