If there is one thing that I learned from watching Lado Kvataniya’s The Execution, it’s that you don’t want to be on the list of the Russian police. Or anywhere near it. You want to be invisible. Because if they even catch a whiff of you, you’re in for a rough time.
The Execution is a police procedural/revenge story that takes place in the last days of the Soviet Union. In 1991, a woman is found, barely alive and bearing the hallmarks of a serial killer who supposedly has been in jail for years. At the news that his career-making case has not actually been solved, Issa Valentinovich (Nikoloz Tavadze) vows to finally and forever smoke out the real killer, by any means necessary.
“By any means necessary” was the directive that he was given the first time around, which led to a multitude of rough interrogations, questionable police tactics, and what seems to be the wrong guy in jail. And like the first time around, the results far outweigh the methods involved in getting them.
The film bounces back and forth between Issa’s newly opened case and the original investigation that took place years before. In the earlier moments of the film, it can be a bit confusing, as evidence overlaps and different scenes seem to contradict one another. But it leads to one of the biggest reveals that you never see coming.
It’s a film that really seems to enjoy crawling around in the muck with its premise, and there are no clear cut heroes among our cast of characters. Issa is part of a police force that is as corrupt and questionable as the criminals that they bring in. This is very much an “anything goes” kind of outfit, so it’s hard to identify with any of the cops, even as they try to root out a vicious serial killer.
And that’s by design. Kvataniya goes to great lengths to show the desperation to cling to power in the face of a dying regime. The end result isn’t as important as showing the end result to the world. Of putting that stamp on it and proudly being able to say the job is done, and done well.
The Execution is a viscous and bloody tale that bounces between being a loose police procedural (I say “loose” because the “grab the suspect and beat the living hell out of him” approach of Russian law enforcement doesn’t seem to have much procedure to it) and an out of control story of vengeance. For the most part, Kvataniya and the film walk that line smoothly. It’s easy for the audience to get a sense of just how desperate the authorities are to finally see this case put to bed, and the lengths that Issa will go to in order to get there.
But there is some tedium that we have to get past in order to get to the grand finale. There is a lot packed into this story and things can get a little dense - particularly as we cross two different timelines. But any frustration felt pretty much melts away when we finally get to the end and we see the full scope of what was at stake throughout this investigation, and the way the characters have disintegrated in the face of the most horrifying case of their careers. Sometimes, people are tested and they walk through the fire to become something more. Other times, they are simply consumed by it.
Movie Score: 3/5