Cinema gangsters used to come from Italy, or perhaps the East End. Not any more, the nastiest mafia in the movies nowadays mostly come from Russia. The Assassin Next Door is set in Israel, but the gangsters are brutal, hatchet-faced Russians.
Galia (Olga Kurylenko) is a young Russian woman whose child is being ‘looked after’ by thugs back home. The mafia order her to carry out assassinations by threatening a horrible ending for her daughter if she doesn’t. She’s kept in a cheap, dingy flat by these men, a place where the screams of an abused wife echo through walls from next door. Life ain’t too good.
Things look up for Galia when she meets Elinor (Ninette Tayeb), the wife of the maniac next door. The two women bond over their mutually grim situation. In some ways this film has something of Thelma and Louise about it: two women united against brutal male society. Unlike Ridley Scott’s film, this is gritty. The women don’t have so much success in hitting back at men and don’t go on a road trip in an open-topped car.
It took about half an hour for The Assassin Next Door (Kirot in Hebrew) to really get going, but then it definitely held the attention. Both women are easy to feel sympathy for and we long for them to finally hit back at their abusers. As well as a developing friendship and a bid for freedom from gangster controllers, the film tracks Galia’s poignant dreams of reconciliation with her daughter.
The reason the Russian mafia are such good cinematic fare is that they are so utterly ruthless. Italian gangsters are portrayed as having some sense of honour, loving their mothers and probably spending their evenings listening to Frank Sinatra. Not so the Russians, their food is foul, their music bad Euro-trance, and they’d kill their mothers if it meant a few extra roubles in the bank.
The drama built up in the first part of the film finally changes into pure action. The film becomes more like a traditional gangster movie, but still not glossy. It’s worth a pop.