Search Film Reviews

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Courtesy Third Party Productions
2014, 90 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin's The Notorious Mr. Bout is an entertaining, unbiased look at "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who rose to notoriety during the 1990s and 2000s before his arrest in Thailand in 2008 during a sting operation.  Bout was extradited to the United States in 2010.  The film largely tells its story through Bout's home videos.  Gerber and Pozdorovkin had incredible access for this film, as everyone under the sun, including Bout's wife, gave interviews.

What's most admirable about this film is that it never necessarily makes Bout look like a "good guy" or "bad guy".  Many filmmakers would go out of their way to vilify Bout, but Gerber and Pozdorovkin are smarter than that, which makes this film a compelling portrait of a man, not a myth.

The decision to use home video footage adds a lot of color to the film.  As mentioned before, this is a portrait of a man.  When documentaries or biopics are made about men like Viktor Bout, the subjects themselves are rarely featured and we learn about them through people know knew them.  Because we hear so much about the horrific things that the subjects did, they are no longer people - they're more like figures, legends.  While Bout is in jail and obviously unavailable to be interviewed, the home video footage speaks for itself and shows us that Bout is a person just like us all.

Overall, The Notorious Mr. Bout is a funny, disturbing film about a brilliant businessman who got himself into one of the most dangerous industries in the world.  Many audiences will be enthralled by this film.  It is never boring, occasionally bizarre, and fast-paced.  What more could one ask for?


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