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‘A Dark, Dark Man’ review: Bleak and absurd Kazakh noir

Gets very dark.

A Dark, Dark Man does not waste anytime throwing audiences into its bleak and cynical world. Bekzat (Daniar Alshinov) is a young policeman who is ordered to kill a witness in order to close the case on a murder. Bekzat is already familiar with the corruption, but before he can actually follow through, a reporter from the city named Ariana (Dinara Baktybaeva) arrives. She is looking into the the boy’s death meaning a real investigation will have to take place – for now.

Conceived as a Kazakh version of a French film noir, the story can get oppressively dark. This includes the comedy which ranges from playfully absurd to painfully true. A Dark, Dark Man is a mystery in which the clues lead to answers no one wants to hear. Director Adilkhan Yerzhanov is less focused on telling a police procedural than on tackling the systemic issues. The plot navigates the interactions between police, criminals, and politicians and no one is innocent.

Bekzat is the conduit through which change may be found. Initially, he is content to do as he is told. He is not necessarily a bad person, but he is not opposed to doing the wrong thing. As the plot progresses, he become closer to Ariana and something inside him slowly awakens. The character development is interesting to watch as A Dark, Dark Man moves at a methodical pace. There is not a moment when a switch is flipped and Bekzat looks at life differently. The film takes its time and does not always play out the way someone watching would expect.

The cinematography is stunning and adds to the story being told. Wide shots show how sparse the area is while also giving off the idea of why a broken system would flourish in this type of setting. The camera moves in lockstep with the pacing to fully draw out emotions and interactions. A vibrant 1980s influenced soundtrack adds to the experience.

A Dark, Dark Man premieres MHz Choice July 19

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