Utilitarian, but effective muckraking Russian film about a young plumber who tries to do the right thing after an emergency call on a burst hot water pipe uncovers the imminent collapse of a nine storey apartment building housing 800+ people. And since no good deed goes unpunished (especially in today’s Russia), his honest report uncovers a town’s worth of systemic corruption where everyone, from the mayor on down, has taken their cut by literally painting over structural problems to pocket allocated funds. Now, while it’s too late to fix the problem, there still might be time to find a scapegoat or two to pin the blame on. Caught in the crossfire, an idealist like our young plumber, can either get with the program or get out of town. Writer/director Yuriy Bykov knows his small town ethics and, with a couple of exceptions for old-school Soviet scenery-chewers, gets really striking perfs from a wide ranging cast that finds villains and decency in unexpected places. A touch more resolution at the end wouldn’t have hurt, but this is strong, honest work. How he got it thru film board committees is a mystery . . . but an encouraging one.
DOUBLE-BILL: For city contract corruption on a bigger scale (and a stupendous building collapse), try Francesco Rosi’s HANDS OVER THE CITY/LE MANI SULLA CITTÀ/’63 with Rod Steiger.