Gorky Park (1983) Poster


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...one day, Arkasha, one day!
mdewey17 December 2007
A very unique, fast moving and entertaining story about political and criminal intrigue in Cold War (real cold, just watch the movie!) Russia. The grisly murder of three young people sends our protagonist, Inspector Arkady Renko (W. Hurt), on a complex, intertwining mission to find out who and/or what was behind this dastardly crime. As the crime facts unfold, potential suspects begin to surface in the mind of the inspector, suspects that may include American collusion with KGB officials. Maybe not entirely novel on the surface, but the sequences of events and the characterizations set forth are anything but pedestrian.

Perhaps the sequences of the facial reconstruction of the 3 victims "de-skinned" facial bones and the subsequent deductions provide the impetus for an unusual plot setting. The involvement of the American cop (B. Dennehy), the Siberian beauty and romantic interest (J. Pacula) who wants out of her homeland, the rich American (L. Marvin), the inspector's police buddies, to name a few, provide more than mere tangential plot fodder: the sum of their actions coalesces in the inspector's mind and takes him closer yet to what could be a very inconvenient truth. All this is done cinematically with good pace and little wasted motion.

It is noteworthy that most of the so-called Russians are British Isles actors who maintain their native brogue while donning the usual Kossack-like apparel! Yet their histrionic adeptness suffers not and their characterizations come off well. After all, we've seen this type of casting done before, but I don't think we could pull this off in modern Russia. Instead of filming in Finland with British actors, we would be filming in Moscow or St. Pete with Russian actors.

Any additional reviewing will get me into the "spoiler" category, so I'll just sign off by saying see the movie. To me, it is William Hurt's best!
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Well Made, Bittersweet Police Procedural
Terrell-418 October 2004
It's winter and three corpses are found in Moscow's Gorky Park. They've had their faces and finger tips carved off. Arkady Renko, an honest, slightly obsessive Russian cop, is assigned to the case. He sets out to identify the bodies by reconstructing their faces, and as he gets closer he finds obstructions in his path. He finds a girl (Joanna Pacula) who was friends of the trio, a wealthy and ruthless American (Lee Marvin), an American cop (Brian Dennehy) out for blood, and more than he probably wants to know about sable coats and the animals they're made from. It becomes clear that corrupt higher-ups are involved in something with greater stakes than solving a triple murder. Hurt and Marvin do great jobs and are well matched.

This is a tight, very well constructed police procedural that is a little exotic, with the cops and functionaries being Russians. It's also a bit gloomy with a bitter sweet ending, but it still works as a very watchable film. A lot of the outdoor shots were filmed in Helsinki, and the movie takes place in the winter. The atmosphere looks cold and oppressive. The contrast is striking with the scenes set in a pre-revolutionary bath and an expensive restaurant, both reserved for the use of privileged Soviet officials.

The book, by Martin Cruz Smith, is even better. Apted also directed Enigma, and I like both movies a lot.
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Great thriller; they don't make 'em like this anymore
McGonigle17 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this with a friend of mine, he commented "I was just saying the other day, even the 'B' movies from the 70s are better than the best movies today." Even allowing for the fact that this came out in 1983, that's an excellent point.

They rarely make movies like this anymore. It's an exciting spy thriller, but it's realistic, and it's got some brains behind it as well. There are no idiotic "Air Force One" acrobatics, no gigantic explosions (with a character jumping towards the camera in the foreground) and no snappy catch-phrases. Just a good mystery and a boatload of great performances.

One thing that's interesting about this film is that in the end, the mystery turns out to be about commerce, not politics, which is unusual for this sort of cold-war Soviet thriller.

Another exceptional feature is the great script by the legendary Dennis Potter. This sort of thing makes me wish he had done more movie scripts for hire. While it's certainly not a personal project like Pennies for Heaven or The Singing Detective, Potter still turns in a top-notch script, filled with typically Potterian touches (like frequent references to losing your skin, and the smart, snappy, hilarious dialogue in general).

Another Potter touch (also used in Christabel) is the way all the characters (except the Americans) use British accents. This is a little disconcerting at first, but once you're used to it, it works really well. First, an actor playing a Russian and speaking English with a British accent is hardly any more "unrealistic" than an actor speaking English with a Russian accent. More importantly, the use of British accents (as in Christabel) allows Potter and the actors to indicate the characters' relative social status, by the type of accent they have. Intellectually, it doesn't make any sense to have the Soviet administrators talk in an upper class British accent, and the regular cops speak with a Cockney accent, but artistically, it induces an immediate emotional response in the viewer that makes a real difference between the two characters instead of just presenting us with two indistinguishable "Russian cops".

All in all, this is an under-appreciated thriller that holds up extremely well, over twenty years later.
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Good fun in Helsinki
matlock-67 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoy this film immensely, not only for the great acting of Brian Dennehey, William Hurt, and Lee Marvin, but for the fact that it is about police in some place other than New York or Los Angeles.

Hurt is very believable as a Russian cop who has to track down a murderer. Marvin is great as his adversary, the corrupt American businessman.

The primary complaint about this film is that it wasn't filmed in Russia. What people tend to forget is that it was made at the height of the cold war, and Soviet Premier Chernenko and the Politburo would not have opened Moscow to an American film crew, much less one that wanted to make a movie that depicts the various Russian agencies and beuraucrats as being as corrupt as Marvin.

In the end, they settled for Helsinki, Finland (which I guess is a fair trade-off, since Finland was technically a part of Russia for a few hundred years). Those who are familiar with Helsinki will probably mock this film (as my Finnish girlfriend did), but if you're not familiar, or willing to look past that shortcoming, then you will probably enjoy this movie quite a bit. They even went as far as to use Russian built "Ladas" (a brand of car) in the movie.

Today, this movie would have been made in Moscow or St. Petersburg, and would probably be better. But it's still good, well made overall, and worth watching.
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A Peek At New Mother Russia
bkoganbing17 April 2007
Though the story does drag a bit in the telling, Gorky Park is a good look at what turned out to be the birth of post Soviet Union Russia.

First and foremost Gorky Park is a murder mystery, despite the politics. That's what William Hurt is all about, he's for want of an American term, a homicide cop with the Moscow PD. He's been handed a nasty triple homicide, three young people, two men and a woman whose faces and finger prints were mutilated making identification a challenge.

Of course this was done for a reason and soon Hurt finds himself up to his neck in a turf struggle with the Soviet KGB. There's an American businessman played by Lee Marvin who's in the mix as well as Russian pathologist Ian Bannen and an American homicide cop Brian Dennehy. Hurt also gets involved romantically with Soviet dissident Joanna Pacula and it turns out she's the key to the whole case.

The film was shot in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Glasgow all cold climate cities that serve very well as location stand ins for Moscow. Best in the film is Lee Marvin who went back to playing bad guys as he did in his early years for this one.

In the turf struggle depicted between the Moscow Police and the KGB you see a whole lot of issues talked about and you can see why the Soviet Union fell apart as it did. Too bad the story couldn't have been better told in a tighter screenplay.
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Not bad, not bad at all
JGSR15 June 2002
I didn't have high expectations, but was pleasantly surprised. It's hard to write anything about this type of film without spoiling, but what I can say without telling too much about the plot is, that the film is a non-cliché film, which still is full of clichés (love scene being the biggest). Filming locations are good, though "Moscow" (Helsinki) is a bit too similar to Stockholm.

The movie may be a bit too long for the American taste, but for more European film taste the length was just perfect. The end was so complicated, that even Agatha Christie would have been proud. The final solution between the main characters was completely different from what I expected, and definitely was that cherry for the cake.

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Krasnya horrorshow
rmax30482330 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
For some reason I almost always watch this when it appears on cable TV. The plot, twisted and complicated as it is, is a bit hard to follow at times although it does make sense if you pay attention. But I think it's the general milieu that is evoked by the location shooting, wardrobe, makeup, and art direction that makes this interesting.

Boy, it looks cold! Everyone seems to dress in multilayered dark clothing and the men wear Pelzkappe, those big furry caps. When characters speak in outdoor scenes, their breath steams, though not always, so you can pretty much distinguish the scenes shot in the studio from those outside. Smith's novel was a bit more explicit about the material culture of Moscow than this movie is. Not only doesn't Chief Investigator Hurt's cheesy looking compact car have a heater but his shoes are made partly of cardboard.

Viewers usually don't pay much attention to makeup unless it draws attention to itself but the makeup department should get a medal for this one. First off, everyone is pale, as they should be in the midst of a Russian winter. The usual tendency is to pile on the suntan and make everyone glamorous. If you want to see an example of what I mean, watch "A Time to Love and a Time to Die", the scene in which John Gaving as a German soldier returns from months at the front during the winter and takes a bath naked so we can all admire his muscles and that tan he sports all over his body, suggesting not November in Kursk but a summer at the beach in Zihuatanejo. Then there is Joanna Pacula's makeup. She's pale too but she's given just enough eyeshadow or kohl or whatever it is, and her brows and lashes are emphasized just enough to make her look even more modelesque than she ordinarily would. If her eyebrows were any darker she'd look like Audrey Hepburn in "Sabrina." As it is, with her blue eyes framed by those orbital rings and her chestnut curls cascading around her cheeks, she looks slightly predatory, maybe like a sable. In some later movie she played a vampire, I think, and I can see why she was cast. William Hurt, likewise pale, even paler than usual come to think of it, is likewise nicely handled. His thin stringy hair has been blackened for some reason. I don't know why. There are plenty of blond Russians. Look at Alexander Gudonov.

Hurt's character is nobody's idea of a superhero. He's just an earnest cop who can be beaten up, as he is several times. After he has killed a traitor who happened to be a man of considerable importance in the Soviet bureaucracy, he next shows up on screen with a small shiner the color of a storm cloud on one of his eyelids and a slight scab on his lower lip. He's been clobbered by the KGB for the killing, you see. But we don't see it on screen, or hear it described. The bruises on his face tell the story. How tempting it must have been to make more of these possibilities. A Makeup Department could have gone ape here -- one cheek stuffed with cotton, bandages on his head, his face a welter of bruises. But this is tastefully done, giving you all the information you need in order to know what happened. Actually, there is one tan face in the crowd -- Lee Marvin's. But it suits him. And he's an American businessman who only visits the USSR from time to time so, between visits, for all we know he may be stretched out on the beach at Bora Bora. He even wears beige and dark browns that match his suntan, and he's the only one in the bunch who actually looks spiffy. William Hurt may be chewed out by his superior for not having shaved closely enough but that would never happen to Marvin, who looks like he just stepped out of five-hundred-dollar a head hair salon.

There isn't a line spoken by Marvin that doesn't ring with irony. Every pause, every facial twitch, every curious line reading, tells us that this guy is very clever and he knows it. Pacula's performance is that of a model who's taken acting lessons. William Hurt, a fine actor, does some strange things here. He LOOKS the part of the determined militia detective, relatively quiet, rarely smiling, seldom physical -- but he drapes his speech in British locutions: "yore" for "your", "bean" for "been," and so on. We can only guess why. The two Americans (Dennehy and Marvin) speak frank American. The actors playing Russians are all from the UK except Pacula, who is Polish and kept help her Slavic accent. So by adopting a Brit accent Hurt places himself among the "Russians." Dennehy, by the way, is at the top of his form. Marvin is absolutely magnetic, as is Ian Bannon, whose readings have the same ironic pitches and stress as Marvin's. You never believe a word he says.

The film ends on a noble note. Pacula gets to go to America which, as everyone knows, is rich, democratically pure, and free of corruption. Hurt stays behind to save her from being followed and killed by KGB. The novel had a different ending. The hero follows the girl to New York City. They sit down to watch television. The program is one they have never seen before. It's title is, "The Price is Right." ("Come on DOWN!") The hero says something like, "THIS is what it's all about? Money?" And gets up and goes back to Russia leaving the girl flat.
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If you like mystery dramas give this one a try.
david-james-623-23112931 December 2009
This film has stood the test of time and repeat viewings for me. Have watched about 10 times over the past 20 years and each time I am totally engrossed. Excellent crime-mystery drama. The dialog in this movie is as good as any I know. Scenery and the settings make you feel like you are in Russia during winter: bleak and frigid. Performances by Hurt, Marvin, Dennehey, and Bannen are all solid if not outstanding. Some may be put off by English and Americans performers posing as Russians, but don't let the lack of dialect authenticity get in your way of enjoying this gem. For comparison I would rank it with LA Confidential within its genre.
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Too many people in our society disappear.
lastliberal2 December 2007
It has been a long time since I last viewed this film, but it was a welcome revisit, and a chance to see a great performance by William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, A History of Violence, The Proposition). After about a dozen of his films, I never tire of watching him act.

The cast also included Lee Marvin in a very good performance, and the ever-lovable Brian Dennehy. This was also the American debut of Joanna Pacula, who got a Golden Globe nomination for her outstanding performance. And, we also got to see her golden globes in a skintastic moment, right before she gets Hurt! This was her finest film in a career spanning 30 years.

Do not miss this fine police procedural with a surprise ending. The motive is brilliant.
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eugenec45 March 2007
This is a very good movie with excellent performances by William Hurt and Lee Marvin.If I have a list of favorite movies of all the time, this will qualify as such. A very good adaptation of the book by Martin Cruz Smith. The portrayal of life in Moscow was fascinating,although the movie did not remain faithful to the book one hundred percent.Of course for resons of time script had to be changed a little.But none of the suspense was missing. The action was fast paced , it's one of those movies you don't want it to end.The music score complimented this intense detective story set in a frosty Moscow.I recommend this movie to all those who like original stories set in exotic places like this one in Russia.Arkady Renko is really the epitome of the non-conformistic citizen who cynically sneers at the rotten aparatus of the communist state while trying to solve this triple homicide.
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Hugely underrated film
thao3 August 2006
Gorky Park is one of my favorite political thriller and a film I watch regularly. I have never understood why it is not better known and better rated.

As is often with Cold War Spy films, the system is corrupt on both sides, and it's the every day people who pay the price of the greed and dishonesty of those playing the games behind the scene. The only way to survive is to be invisible and never get mixed up in a case that has political ties. William Hurt plays Arkady Renko, a Moscow police man who gets one of those cases. Three bodies are found in Gorky Park. Faces and fingertips have been removed and KGB seams to know something about this but they do not want the case. KGB does not like Arkady Renko very much since he has tried to prove their guilt once before and he is sure that they are now out for a revenge. The case is somehow connected to Jack Osborne, an American business man played by Lee Marvin.

The film does not shy away from criticizing both sides. Not only do the politics come off as hypocritical, the whole world of espionage is shown as an inhuman and cruel game of greedy and power hungry opportunists.

Some have criticized the film for not capturing the book well enough. It is rather unfair to expect a 2 hour long film to include everything from a 600 page book. A feature film of such a long book is always going to be a shortened version. I think Dennis Potter (yes the one and only) does a great job of capturing the moral bankruptcy of both systems, communism and capitalism. How they are in fact the same. Just a way to keep the little man busy and blind so those in power can get rich by corrupting the system.

Not perfect but not far from it.
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Gripping, Stylish, Extremely Well-Acted, Muscovite Cop On The Case Thriller
ShootingShark7 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When three mutilated bodies are found in Moscow's Gorky Park, Chief Militia Renko suspects KGB involvement and wants to drop the case. Encouraged to continue by his superior, his suspicions are eventually confirmed but he uncovers a larger plot involving the friend of one of the victims and an American furrier who trades in rare sable pelts.

This is my favourite Cold War thriller - despite the fact that it's got nothing to do with the Cold War - based on a great book by Martin Cruz Smith filled with action and intrigue and with a first-rate script by Dennis Potter, bursting with dramatic tension and character nuance. Its best feature is the marvellous casting by Mary Selway; Hurt is sensational as Renko, a brilliantly atypical hero, gaunt and pale-faced, dogged and relentless, drab but passionate, double-crossed and always on the receiving end of beatings, but indefatigable in his pursuit. He's supported by three great actors; the elfin, amazing-looking Pacula as the key witness Irina, the solid, ever-reliable Dennehy as a New York cop whose brother was one of the victims, and the iconic Marvin, in one of his last great roles, as the decadent furrier out to smash the Russian sable monopoly. The all-British supporting cast is equally full of great players, notably McDiarmid as a creepy professor and comedians Fulton and Sayle as a KGB Major and informant respectively. Made prior to the lifting of the ban on filming in Russia, the movie was shot in Helsinki, but Paul Sylbert's production design does a fantastic job of putting us in snowy Moscow, filled with food- lines, little Lada cars and Romanov architecture. Even better is James Horner's fabulous driving score, which ramps up the tension and batters the viewer into submission at all the key moments. Filled with quotable dialogue (when Renko borrows his lawyer friend's gun, the friend says, "It's a lawyer's special issue. It probably won't shoot straight."), great scenes, rich characters and mesmerising performances, this a superb thriller from the sporadically-brilliant Apted (check out his Continental Divide and Gorillas In The Mist as well) that is not to be missed.
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The movie is better than the book
deschepper-vandaele11 January 2007
Everyone knows the usual saying: "The book is better than the film". Well, here it's the opposite. The English writer of the scenario, Dennis Potter, gives a far better rendering of the situation than the rather primitive anticommunist attitude of the American author. Potter finds parallels in the conflict between the Russian police and the KGB, with the antagonism between the N.Y.P.D. and the CIA. In doing so, he induces the audience to think about their own situation. This is all I had to say, but unfortunately the "guidelines" oblige me to go on. I hope that by now I have reached the minimum number of lines. I'm sorry. Thank you for your understanding.
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Gruesome triple murder inquiry by Moscovite police
VanheesBenoit27 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To my amazement, several IMDb reviewers seem to have problems with trivial issues such as Russians speaking British-English, or Finland being used as a location in stead of Russia.

What is the point of discussing something that was politically unavoidable at the time ? Which western spy movie actually took place in Russia before the Wall came down ? Generally, Finland or Austria provided very good alternatives. This is true for Billion dollar brain or Enigma (1983) Wouldn't it be silly to write off every SF movie that is supposed to take place on Mars, simply because it was actually filmed on Planet Earth ?

Frankly, the accent-issue too is absurd and irrelevant. I have a feeling some reviewers just want to show the world how observant they are. Whatever the Russians might have spoken, they would have found a reason to complain about it. If they would have used NY slang or English with a ridiculous Russian accent, they would have made fun of it. And if the Russians actually would have spoken Russian, probably the same people would be the first ones to have complained about the color of the subtitles on the snowy landscape, or the simplified translations.

SPOILER ALERT: Curiously enough, none of these observant observers seem to have been intrigued by some weak points in Gorky Park's plot. For those who already have seen the movie, let's name a few ones:

1) The corrupt American fur importer Osborne is supposed to have excellent connections with KGB and the brass of the Militia. So why didn't he ask them to take care of his little problem ? He might even have earned some extra praise by his KGB buddies, for having been a finger man for such "dangerously deviant" individuals, as they surely would have been called in those Cold War days. In stead, he's doing the bloody work all by himself, in a happy-happy-Helloweenish way.

2) Osborne goes to great lengths to make identification of the bodies "impossible". How he managed to do so, without turning the white snow carpet in this remote spot of Gorky Park into a slaughterhouse scene remains a mystery. But OK, let's accept he's some kind of artist in this kind of work: all his prudence seems to have been superfluous, as within a few days, the 3 bodies are discovered.

3) Furthermore,quite ironically, this unusual way of skinning heads and fingers was like a "Killroy was here"-signature for Renko...

4) To make matters even worse, Osborne's KGB and militia friends seem to be completely unaware of Renko's stubbornness. They don't make him stop in time his inquiry. This at a time when numerous jokes were told about how tight KGB-control were. Or don't you know why the KGB always operated in teams of 3 agents: one who could write, one who could read and one to keep an eye on those two dangerous intellectuals…

Still, hold on... This is a movie after all… And as all reviewers know, the rules of the game of watching movies is to be able to not analyze everything so rationally, and to allow some part of silliness to pop up now and then. And if you're able to do this in Gorky Park, you'll really enjoy this movie. marvelous ! Hurt did a top notch job as the stubborn and honest police man, deliberately taking great risks to uncover the truth. Some people found his acting work quite "wooden" in this movie. Again, I'm sure that would he have been more exuberant, showing more emotions, the same people would have wondered why he was clowning his way through this movie, a la Robin Williams. Is it so difficult to understand that he's just portraying a very professional cop, the only one with a 100 % rate of resolving crimes he has been investigating. He's the son of an even more famous and respected Militia man, who could afford frivolities as being not well shaved, as Renko's superior complains.

If he seems a somewhat 1-dimensional character, it is just because he's obsessed to do his job as good as his father would have done it. He's probably also very well aware that he's walking on eggs with his investigation. He's not at all sure his superiors will back him all the time, and he's understandably tense. I don't know, one could go on debating about it, and still not convince everyone. To me, Hurt found the right balance in playing his role of obstinate but also careful cop. Lee Marvin too was an excellent catch, giving Osborne all the arrogance and self-confidence he needed. The whole support cast too was fine, nobody over-acting in an irritant way, nor anyone lacking flair or talent.

The specific angle of the storyline too is special. Not the triple murder part, but the fact that this is a US movie about an efficient Russian militia man, hunting down a corrupt US business man and killer. (See Telefon from 1977 for a similarly surprising plot). If you take into account that Gorky Park was filmed in the era of Reagan's "Evil empire" rhetoric, one will understand how surprising this movie must have been at the time.

Finally: I was very pleased with the reviews on this movie, pointing out to some special cosmetics aspects (the special use of make up) of it, and the one making a link between the social status of the "Russians", and the different British accents they were using. The top brass indeed sounded somewhat snobbish, as they probably would have too if they would have spoken Russian. Once more, this underlines how efficient this movie uses whatever it can to lift the quality of it.

3 ½ stars out of 4.
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One man versus the system
hgallon9 February 2000
This is a fairly common story, that of an honest man fighting alone against a corrupt system. The setting is unusual, and the plot has some entertaining twists.

William Hurt plays Senior Investigator Renko, of the Moscow Militia (i.e. police). He is assigned to a high-profile murder case, and finds himself alternately prodded on, hindered or even threatened by his own superiors, by the KGB and by his obvious suspect. All these people are acting so self-confidently compared to Renko's plodding, that the sense of loneliness, or even of paranoia is very apparent.

Much of the action is contrived and unconvincing, both in its development and denouement, although the film does build to a good climax. On the other hand, all the characterisations of ordinary russians, who must have been strange creatures to film directors and audiences alike at the time, is very good.

The directors discarded one of the original novel's best tricks, that of sending Renko to New York (to recover valuable state property), and confronting him with the law enforcement system which gave rise to "Kojak" and the "Hill Street Blues".

Overall this is quite a good film, and fairly close to the novel. There are some sequels written which deserve to appear on the screen.
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Could have been great, but...
Brundlefly29 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I've always wanted to see this film but didn't until I watched it on NetFlix in 2010.

The main problem with this film is the screenplay - I didn't read the book, but I am guessing the screenplay is very faithful, because it plays like Masterpiece Theatre with a budget.

As a result, its a long movie, but I suspect it was much longer as their are some situations and scenes which seem to have had supporting scenes which were cut.

There is just no interesting flow to this movie at all, the characters and relationships are very poorly developed, and the actors don't seem to have any significant investment in their characters or motivations either. Its almost like watching a long screen test.

Which is too bad - WIlliam Hurt and Brian Denehy are great actors, but could have both been replaced with competent unknowns - it probably would have been a better film, actually, as the viewer wouldn't keep asking themselves 'Why is Hurt acting like a limp noodle?' or 'Was Brian Denehy attached to this project late?'

There is no voice coaching in this movie - everyone speaks English - which is fine, since its an American movie - but the actor's individual accents are not coached out - the Russians in this movie mostly speak with British accents, but they vary into other accents as well. No Russian is fine, but at least keep the accents consistent.

There are some weird moments in the movie also - like 'how do the police come to know this pristine snow blanket is covering a murder scene"? Or 'Why did William Hurt just profess love to someone he barely knows?' or 'Why is William Hurt completely unconcerned that the man he has come to kill just pulled a pistol out of a drawer and loaded it?' or 'Why did Lee Marvin take that pistol out of the drawer in the first place'?

Its obvious stuff like this was taken out of the book, which had explanatory non-dialog text which put it into context, but when transferred to the screen, they forgot that the audience does not have access to that text.

An occasional musical interlude of 80's synth pad and drum machine also painfully dates the movie at certain points.

Anyways, a real yawner that seemed to try to capitalize on a bestselling book by throwing some budget and talent into a big vat with a book and stirring - but no one really bothered to make a movie here.
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A great period piece mystery
tiggermagoo16 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I am not a big fan of William Hurt, but his plodding acting style is perfect for the plodding Moscow city police inspector he plays in this movie. It's fascinating to see how heavy the old Soviet Union bureaucracy was.

Spoilers herein: The last 45 minutes are filled with a great many twists that keep the viewer engaged, and it's definitely a film with a Socialist point of view, the protagonist a mundane Soviet bureaucrat, the antagonist an American entrepreneur. Yet, as with all good mysteries, it's the suspense and drama that make this film so good. Lee Marvin, Brian Dennehy, and Ian Bannen play their parts equally well, and Joanna Pacula probably has her best role in this film as Irina. Vote: 9 of 10.
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Underrated film
jeremy32 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The critics did not like this film. Why? They said it was boring. Untrue. What I liked about this film was that it was entertaining and suspenseful. What I mostly liked about the movie was that it wasn't the typically pretentious non-Russian film about Russia. The biggest mistake that filmmakers make is having their actors use Russian accents. Russian is not an easy language to master, and true Russians just laugh at their attempts. This movie was refreshing. No one attempted to use accents. In fact, most of the actors, except for William Hurt, were English. Their accents were evident. Alexei Sayle, a British comedian, was very good as a KGB informant. William Hurt was very good. He played a Russian policeman with a lot of integrity. That was another thing I liked. It wasn't the usual anti-communist propaganda film. It showed things as they really were. People were afraid of the KGB, but also looked down upon them. William Hurt was the good guy. The bad guy was an American. The movie was not about political ideology. It was about crime. It was about the corruption in the Soviet Union that led to it's demise. Brian Dennehy was excellent as an American father, who at first is very Russophobic, but discovers that the "bad" guys are both Russian and non-Russian. The mystery was very entertaining. The film-making was very good. You really thought that you were in eastern Europe. Everything looked so bleak. I think it is an underrated and under-appreciated film.
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Lost in Confusion
Rodrigo_Amaro10 October 2013
One of Michael Apted's weakest efforts, this adaptation of Martin Cruz Smith's novel is a tedious mystery that has a good start, a messy and lousy middle and a thrilling ending but the picture as a whole isn't worthy of our efforts. It works as a way to see a more intellectual version of future action film "Red Heat" (a fun to watch), both films made during the Cold War whose main character is a good Soviet, far from the villiainesque stereotypes created by the American cinema, combative of the Communism just as its government but at least they knew how to offer a different point of view.

In it, William Hurt plays an officer in charge of investigating the mystery behind three faceless corpses found buried in Gorky Park and which may involve an American businessman (Lee Marvin) who deals with Russian officials. To assist Hurt, there's an American detective (Brian Dennehy), and to get on his way there's one girl (Joanna Pacula) who knows too much and you probably know the rest which concerns about her involvement and the main character, another lousy love story we can't possibly care.

The plot is terribly confusing and with meaningless dialogs and a pathetic romance that doesn't convince. There's nothing powerful here, and the reason behind the murders is something to be guessed by viewers only known of those who read the novel. When the charade is solved...it's so lighthearted and simplistic that it doesn't make us feel anything. "Gorky Park" lacks in flow and rhythm, painfully slow and morose, only hitting good notes when creating moments of enjoyable action.

On the bright side, we must appreciate the excellent use of locations in Helsink doubling for URSS, since they couldn't film in there, and Helsink proves to be a fine choice, beautifully photographed by cinematographer Ralf D. Bode. And there's good performances by Marvin, Hurt, Dennehy and Ian Bannen as the KGB chief. Pacula only gets credit for her good looks and use of a Russian accent, completely ignored by all the other "Russians" in the film, mostly played by British actors to differentiate from the English spoken by the Americans, characteristic used in other old films.

I love movies in that style but only when they're involving. This detective story just didn't work. 5/10
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Cold War Thriller of Highest Order, Fresh Two Decades On
ddbanddtt18 July 2006
Life is cheap when people are desperate.

Gorky Park is a communal leisure area in Moscow. A place of beauty available to the poorest. It was a tenet of faith of US conservatives of the day that communism had left people poor. US liberals of the day claimed that the truth of communist freedoms was being obscured by conservatives. Few in the west understood Soviet life. Whatever the faults of this film, the characters were real, desperate and flawed.

The hero is part superman in the violence. Both touched and Teflon. Hurt plays the naive observer who is witnessing cracks in the paintwork. An honest cop who knows enough politics to live.

The mystery is disturbing, and things get worse. Soviet Russia was a flawed vision of idealists. Nothing works as it is supposed to, and when some well meaning youths attempt to achieve utopia, establishment has a way of buying souls.

Gorky Park is a vision that might have been set in any of many nations where totalitarian regimes fed on the dreams of youth. This is not a common or average film. The violence is extreme and apparently unnecessary, except in some places in the world, such things happen.

I've not read the book.
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The cold war from the other side, but some miserable acting and directing
secondtake20 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Gorky Park (1983)

Wow, this is a clunky movie. First of all, where did William Hurt think he could pull off an English accent? And why (since he's playing a Russian police detective) does he need one? It'll make your skin crawl, once you notice.

The twist of a spy movie being shown from the Russian/Soviet side is clever, and the cold winter, the Russian garb, the lousy cars and great architecture, on and on, make for an interesting movie on some level. And the plot, if you can give a hoot, is a convoluted tale of the usual convoluted intrigues with these new Russian winter twists. Three bodies found under the snow have no faces, this we learn in the first minutes. An American seems to be involved, maybe two. Lee Marvin makes an appearance now and then and he has that Lee Marvin presence (thankfully), though this makes Hurt look especially weak. (I usually like Hurt's laid back quality, but it's badly placed here.)

So Michael Apted, the director, has some reason for going along with all these casting choices, and he certainly is responsible for the filming (routine) and acting (choppy and at times pathetic) and emphasis on dull lighting, banal camera-work, and functional editing. There are sensations (like faces being eaten away by maggots) and lots of gloomy snowy scenes (which are good), but it's not enough. And the music and sound effects pound in with unusual volume as if to emphasize the lack of real drama in the plot. (It's also ironic that the portion of Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture used over and over is the French part, not the Russian one. Indicative of the dull wits at play here.)

Beyond handing John Hurt badly, a tiny but salient example of the awkward direction is when Hurt finishes looking at a picture (52 minutes in) and then he doesn't just set it down, he turns it around and sets it down so it's right side up for the camera. A few minutes later, a couple of good bit actors scrape snow off the windshield and all the other cars in the lot don't have snow on them. Hmmm. Such is the movie in the plot motivations, as well, with people in dire situations doing improbable things. If logic matters to you.

Gorky Park is not a miserable failure, and it has some exciting espionage moments and some convincing acting on the edges, a ravishing but lifeless love interest (played by Joanna Pacula in her breakout role), some glimpses of sables (the animal), but, after all, there are many more interesting movies of this kind, better in every way. And without Hurt's perfectly terrible effort.
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Read the Book
lizscher16 December 2002
I saw this movie and unfortunately was very disappointed. After reading the brilliant book written by Martin Cruz Smith I expected a brilliant screenplay in movie form. I was wrong, many characters are missing which are vital to the story line and Hurt's performance of the title character is not believable, his accent isn't even right! Not that I don't think Hurt is a talented actor, I just didn't feel he was the right person for the part. The only thing that made the movie bearable for me was the the perfect casting choice of Lee Marvin as the American. It was as though this part was written for him and no one else. If you want to see the movie, read the book first (its will explain the holes in the plot for you) and enjoy one of Lee Marvin's last great performances!
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What went wrong?
Locations in Helsinki, Finland (standing in for Moscow) are melancholy, frozen, and beautiful. The cast, no doubt, are all accomplished actors, while the story itself has so much potential. And yet, this movie is a total disappointment. The screenplay is melodramatic, overdrawn and often horribly corny. In fact, except for Brian Dennehy's rogue NYPD tough guy and Lee Marvin's convincing capitalist villain, the performances feel like a stilted dress rehearsal in an amateur theater production. I wish I could ask director Michael Apted and William Hurt - usually so good in romantic thrillers - what they were thinking! Worth seeing perhaps if you admire snow, little Soviet cars and enormous Russian hats, but otherwise the making of Gorky Park was a missed opportunity.
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An excellent book, a terrible film
kimyt12 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the movie first time in the late 80's and thought that it was confusing. It seemed like parts of the film were removed, because the people were doing irrational things without an explanation why.

A couple of years later I read the original novel and liked it a lot. I even read all the other Martin Cruz Smith's books to know the story of Arkadi Renko better. The next time the movie was shown on the Finnish television I had to watch it again.

At least now I understood the plot completely. But still the movie was missing something. I didn't get the feeling that the movie was happening in the Soviet Union at all. If the uniforms had been changed, it could have been any other country. In the book the differences between the police forces, the KGB and politicians were always present. And the worst thing was that the main characters didn't feel like real people at all. They were just like dolls moving and opening their mouths to read their lines from the script. Nobody seemed to have any kind of personality. I couldn't understand how a genius like Dennis Potter (writer of the movie) could have turned such a good book into garbage like this.

The main reason I still bother to see this movie is the fact that the movie was filmed here in my home town Helsinki, Finland. You know, in 1983 it wasn't possible for an American film group just to go and shoot a movie behind the Iron Curtain. It's fun to see familiar places as parts of Moscow, a red star on the top of the National Museum and so on. This is why I recommend this movie to other Finns. People from the other countries, there are better things to do for 130 minutes than watch this. For example, start reading the book.
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good but!
zorro2a26 August 2006
I like this kind of film plenty of red herrings (no pun intended) no one seeming to be who he is, good performances by all, but why why why do producers cast English actors in this kind of film when they all talk with their own accent, Ian Bannan a top KGB man talking with a perfect English accent, Alexi Sale a perfect Liverpool accent even though he's a Russian crook, no one expects an "Allo Allo" forced accent but if they could try and put on a little bit of accent it would make it more realalistic, of course Lee Marvin & Brian Dennehy are always great to watch, l can remember when Lee Marvin was in a US cop show called M Squad, Anyway the story is good as l've said and if you like "Gorky Park" try Frederick Forsyth's "Just Another Secret"
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