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New Release Review - PARTISAN

A pre-teen assassin begins to question his involuntary career.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Ariel Kleiman

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara


Partisan never really gets under the grubby nails of its subject, and plays as a superficial genre exercise from the Nicolas Winding Refn colouring book.




In the comic book movie Kick-Ass, Nicolas Cage plays a father who trains his daughter (Chloe Moretz) to become an assassin. That movie plays the scenario for laughs, and never really delves into just what a murky arrangement that is. Ariel Kleiman's feature debut takes a similar premise but instead aims for kitchen sink realism. Partisan never really gets under the grubby nails of its subject either however, and plays as a superficial genre exercise from the Nicolas Winding Refn colouring book.
Filmed in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the movie opens with Vincent Cassell's Gregori scavenging through the ruins of what appears to be a city recently devastated by war. We're reminded of Vincent Price picking through the post-apocalyptic shell of his city in The Last Man on Earth, which used its Rome location to similar effect, the suburbs of the city still crumbling from the damage of WWII. Gregori gathers valuables, including single mothers, and a decade or so later he's running a commune consisting of women and children, the eldest of which is Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel).
Early scenes show the kids engaging in seemingly normal activities like karaoke and target practice, but it soon transpires they're practicing for human targets and Gregori is running a school for youthful assassins. Victims, whose level of guilt we're never made privy to, are dispatched by kids who escape on bikes without breaking a sweat, or questioning their actions. That's until one boy, Leo (Alex Balaganskiy) starts refusing to cooperate with Gregori's wishes, and this leads Alexander to question everything he's known in his short and limited life.
Director Kleiman had previously helmed a series of short films, and Partisan follows the sort of structure you might expect from a film of limited running time. No time is spent fleshing out characters or the film's dystopian world, as it instead simply builds up to a climax, one that feels unsatisfactory after sitting through a feature length film, and wouldn't make for much of a conclusion to a short either. Cassell gives a committed performance but the film has no interest in exploring his character, and it's hard to swallow the seemingly hypnotic power he holds over the women in his care. The dead-eyed Chabriel is either poorly cast or badly directed, displaying no real emotion, especially when set against Balaganskiy, who seems a far more natural child actor.
Though shot in Eastern Europe, Partisan is actually an Australian production. It's strange that a filmmaker would schlepp his cast and crew half way across the world for a film as paper thin as this, but the truth is the communist era tower blocks of Tbilisi have more life in their concrete limbs than anything else in the movie.
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