The Hollywood Executive description of THE SCYTHIAN could be “300 meets Game of Thronesin Ancient Russia”. To be fair, the simplest way that one could describe Russian action/fantasy movie THE SCYTHIAN is “Russian Game of Thrones“. Hell, the lead actor Alexsey Faddeev could easily be a stand-in for Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy). However, this movie isn’t incredibly derivative of the beloved HBO masterpiece. It shares the themes of violence, deception, and royal conquest, but so does basically any film based in an ancient civilization.
Alexsey Faddeev (Rozysk, Pobeg) stars as Lyutobor, a lieutenant in the army of Lord Oleg (Turiy Tsurilo; Hard To Be A God, The Search), the prince of Tmutarakan. The Lord’s and therefore the army’s mission is to “bring Christianity” to all of Eurasia, which, if you are even remotely aware of history, this is very much based in truth. The Holy Roman Empire and the Russian Orthodox Church had very similar journeys in “spreading the gospel” which essentially means killing anyone in the realm who refuses to change their belief system.
At the outset of the film, Lyutobor is called away from service to come to his wife Tatyana (Izmaylova Vasilisa in her debut film role) as she gives birth to their first child. Soon after Lyutobor’s arrival, we discover that the child is a boy, and the whole settlement rejoices. During the celebration, a group of pagan assassins, The Wolves of Perun, kidnap Tatyana and her child. A note is left on Lyutobor’s door that if he kills Lord Oleg, he can get his wife and child back. It’s attached to a bag of poison.
Lord Oleg discovers this and sends Lyutobor off to find whose idea this plot was and also to locate his wife and child. One of the Wolves of Perun, Kunitsa (Alexsander Kuznetsov; Kotyol, Spitak), which roughly translates to Marten, a ferret-like member of the weasel family, is knocked out by one of his fellow assassins and taken prisoner by the Tmutarakani. Lyutobor releases Kunitsa, only so that he may help Lyutobor find his wife and child. Somehow, an unlikely kinship develops, through hell or high water.
THE SCYTHIAN is brutally violent. There are vests made of human faces, tons of dead bodies, endless fighting and deaths. If you’re into that sort of thing, then this film is perfect for you. The fight choreography and make-up effects are incredible. There are a couple of times when some not-so-great CGI is used, but I supposed I can forgive the team for that.
Director/writer Rustam Mosafir (Begletsy, Rozysk 2) does a good job of creating a believable pre-Christianity Eurasia. Along with Mosafir’s co-writer Vadim Golovanov (Happy New Year, Daddy!, Jurnalugy), the two create a rich story that can be seen as an allegory for the seemingly never-ending effects of war and religion on history. So the film isn’t entirely about blood and guts, even though there’s a lot of them to be seen.
You might be wondering, “So, who is the Scythian?” My response is, watch the movie to find out! THE SCYTHIAN had its North American premiere on July 15th at Fantasia Film Festival. A US festival release date has not been set as of this writing. Hopefully, a release will happen soon so everyone else can see this action packed medieval beast of a film!**
**NOTE: We just learned that THE SCYTHIAN will be released in the U.S. on Tuesday, August 14, under the title THE LAST WARRIOR.