The 400 "No's:" Artsploitation Films - Bullet Collector (2011) - Reviewed

When a film's description titles itself as a "Russian update of The 400 Blows," that's probably not a good sign. Drawing comparisons of your own film to one of the most timeless coming-of-age films ever made betrays an immense amount of pretension, and sadly Bullet Collector is a case where the director (or probably in this case, the marketing team) got a little over his head in that direct comparison.

That's not to say the stories aren't remarkably similar. It may as well be a darker, more violent update; with its tale of a troubled and abused youth going against the grain and shaking his fist in disdain at modern society. It's shot entirely in black and white, which may have been used as an effective cover for some brief, startlingly violent shots; but having the entire film in this palette felt more akin to it trying to be like a successor to Fran├žois Truffaut's masterpiece than anything else. There's even a tracking shot near the end of the film that mimics an iconic moment near the end of The 400 Blows when Antoine Doinel is running through the forest- the camera tracking his moves as he runs and runs away from the pressures of modern society, but this time, he's running away from... police, I guess.

It wouldn't even be a huge problem for Bullet Collector if it didn't try so hard to be something that it so clearly is not. Whispers between On (that's actually the protagonist's name) and a lover mean sweet nothings between the two of them, without adding proper meaning and weight behind these characters and their actions. It puts the art in Artsploitation, if you will. It's almost like that comical faux French New Wave movie that you can go see in Grand Theft Auto V, with its long, wistful internal monologues in between brutal exploitative domestic and juvenile violence. 

This could have been a great experiment in the genre film industry that just falls flat in a wasteful attempt at homage. Truffaut would doubtless demolish this piece of exploitation if he were still around today. It admittedly is ambitious in its ideas and themes, but the ultimate execution of said themes epitomizes into becoming a word that I absolutely despise using in criticism: pretentious. Perhaps, had director Alexandr Vartanov tried for a pulpier, all-out violent rage against the machine, it would have been far more entertaining, if not even fascinating, in its absolute madness. 

-Wes Ball