‘A Dark, Dark Man’ Review: Murder and Corruption in Kazakhstan

A Dark, Dark Man” is set in a stretch of Kazakhstan where few people seem to live, yet corruption pervades every corner.

When this police procedural, directed by Adilkhan Yerzhanov (“Yellow Cat”), premiered in 2019, it was a regular feature film. Its distributor has carved it into three episodes for streaming purposes. That’s unfortunate, because its pacing and visual style — much of the action unfolds in long shot — are clearly designed for big-screen immersion.

For its first third, “A Dark, Dark Man” issues grim revelations with breathtaking rapidity. Poukuar (Teoman Khos), a gullible local, is coerced by a mysterious man into providing evidence that will be used to frame him for the rape and murder of an orphan boy. (We later learn that the boy is the fourth such victim.) Bekzat (Daniyar Alshinov), the detective antihero, arrives at the scene to investigate what now looks like an open-and-shut case.

In this district, suspects have a tendency to be found dead before trials. Bekzat can’t stage Poukuar’s suicide so easily, though, after a journalist, Ariana (Dinara Baktybayeva), turns up to accompany Bekzat on the investigation. She might even push him to pursue the lurking serial killer in earnest.

The mystery aspect is handled obliquely. The film is more of a mood piece, and much of its pitch-black humor derives from the contrast between the barren landscape and the sheer number of horrors it contains. (When Bekzat and Ariana arrive in a village, an old woman greets him: “You killed my son. Two years ago. During questioning.”) Only the closing moments seem less nervy.

A Dark, Dark Man
Not rated. In Kazakh and Russian, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. Watch on MHz Choice.

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