Generally speaking, Russian movies tend to fall into one of two categories: either dour, nihilistic essays expressing litanies of human misery and hopelessness, or hyperkinetic explosions of implausible madness lighting up your screen. A new movie lodged firmly in the latter category, Major Grom: Plague Doctor, has managed to leap straight to the top of Netflix’s viewing chart after it dropped yesterday.
Based on the initial arc of the popular Major Grom series of comics, it follows the eponymous St Petersburg detective as he investigates a serial killer clad in a combat suit and the distinctive hook-beaked mask of Middle Ages epidemic physicians. The murderer has been taking out high profile targets who one way or another have left suffering in their wake but were unable to be brought low by the limitations of the justice system, meaning not everyone wants him to be caught.
To be honest, despite the movie’s over-dramatic stylings, its central concept and themes are ones you’ll have likely seen multiple times before, and at a conceptual level there is little to distinguish them aside from its antagonist’s high-tech equipment. Such is the familiarity of how these stories go you’ll probably identify the culprit before he’s even made his first kill, and perhaps in acknowledgment to such inevitability, not even forty minutes have passed before he willingly unmasks himself.
If you overlook the lethality of the latter’s tactics, the police officer and his nemesis in a way act as the dual sides of Batman – the detective and the vigilante – and in some alternate reality there’s probably a version of the story where it’s revealed the two are one and the same.
Major Grom: Plague Doctor is seven separate shades of crazy while being set in a world where such histrionics can plausibly exist. As evidenced by the vast numbers of people who have already unexpectedly flocked to the film, it’s a highly entertaining way of killing two hours, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.