A Rough Draft has a great premise; a games developer is recruited as a gate keeper (customs officer) at an intersection between worlds. Despite the awful dubbing that’s evident from the first 1 minute the start of the movie really grabs your attention: a phone giving commands, a snow laden Russian city and a building that materialises out of thin air: yes please!
After the opening credits the first 20 minutes are spent playing catch-up to bring us up to speed – how did Kirill (Nikita Volkov) end up blooded and bruised in the back of a police van?
Reality as Kirill knows it doesn’t last long, after being the centre of attention at an office party he heads home to find a woman (Renata) in his apartment, after calling the police he re-enters the flat to find it’s entirely different.
Renata ( Severija Janusauskaite) struts and pouts but it’s immediately obvious that there’s something not quite human about her – and it’s not just the blonde hair plastered back against her head or her freaky eyes that suggests it. Janusauskaite plays the part quite well though I would have been interested to see a further dimension to the relationship between her and Kirill if she’d been more of his age; how she could have actually distracted him rather than just creeping him out.
Kirills confusion doesn’t stop with Renata in his apartment though, as he wakes up to a new day and tries to find a solution to the apartment issue he discovers he doesn’t really exist at all; he’s literally been erased from the world.
There’s a real eerie feeling to the beginning of the movie which is definitely reminiscent of the Matrix. You’re aware that there’s something else just underneath the surface and you’re eager to work out what it is.
As the movie develops though the holes start to show through, the ideas remain strong but the telling of it starts to get foggy and confused.
Volkov plays the part of Kirill well throughout the entire movie, he’s handsom enough to warrant the attention from the female cast but his character is refreshingly devoid of arrogance. Dubbing covers a lot but Volkov plays his character with sincerity and you thoroughly feel his struggles.
After his best friend, Constantine, forgets him, Kirill decides to phones him up (as a friend, or random person I’m not sure) and suggests to meet. Before you know it though they seem like best pals again and the ‘why is this random person talking to me’ is never explained. It was all a bit sudden, like I’d fallen asleep and skipped a couple of scenes.
Throughout the first half of the film there are interesting cut scenes of the working Russian machine: endless traffic and bleak views over the city. The shots are nicely done to give a background flavour of the environment.
The blonde Renata acts as Kirills guru, though her flirtatious and overtly sexual behaviour is more creepy than arousing given her age and her androgynous features. She, and other members of the cast keep insinuating that Kirill is some kind of special one (the Matrix again) but how and why are never explained.
Once Kirill is installed in his tower and some of the rules have been explained he heads out to explore whats on the otherside of one of the towers’ doors. It turns out to be a Steampunk style alternative Moscow; the digital imagery of the new environment is OK, it’s not fantastic but not the worse I’ve seen by a long chalk, it’s kept largely in the background or far away which helps.
Kirill and his new best friend aim for The White Rose because that’s where his lost love (Anna) has gone. Once inside though there’s a complete change of pace; suddenly Kirill is running up the walls and defying gravity battling with a automated Russian doll intent on his destruction. What, why?
Whilst some of the aerobatics are clearly on wires and look a little bit silly the majority look quite good which should embarrass a large percentage of blockbusters movie makers that can’t seem to get it right at all.
Having said that it does feel a bit random, you’re later told it was a test but it felt more like an excuse to have a bit of action and show the audience Kirill has these new ‘powers’.
The surreal vibe doesn’t end with the Russian doll though, in the next scene he feeds a pitcher of plant water to a mannequin-woman who’s had her throat slit. It’s bizarre, especially when she recovers and there’s no explanation as to who would do that or why.
Unfortunately there are too many similar moments throughout the film where you suddenly feel like you’ve missed something. There’s a scene where he wanders off and meets a female blacksmith who makes him a knife by whispering into the water as she douses a glowing hot metal rod. Why did he meet her? Why did she make him a knife? Is the knife special? But throughout the scene Kirill acts like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
The rest of the movie revolves around Kirill trying to find/save Anna (Olga Borovskaya) and what started off with so much promise becomes disjointed as the idea gets corrupted. As the film nears the end it starts to get more and more peculiar, starts to look a bit cheap and like there were too many ideas for the budget or the writer to account for.
Names like ‘Functionals’ and ‘Curators’ are used throughout the film but explanations come in off hand comments or else don’t come at all!
In one of the worst scenes in A Rough Draft Kirill clashes with the blacksmith; they run together in slow motion then ‘clash’ in mid-air. There’s no way of describing how terrible it is and how a scene so awful doesn’t belong in this film at all.
At the other end of the spectrum though there is a particularly stunning piece of photography as Kirill and Anna line up on opposite sides of a glass window. It’s visually stunning as well as metaphorical.
Unfortunately the whole movie ends rather unsatisfactorily – there’s no saving Anna , there’s no explanation about how all these world’s exist or if they’re all parallel or how, if they’re created by functionals they have a history before the birth of the functional who dreamed them up. Sadly it feels rather half baked which is a real shame given there are some really brilliant ideas in there and some great moments.
‘Rough draft’ is only really mentioned at the end of the film, yet given its the name of the movie the idea should have been much more of a focal point – especially when its one of the movies greatest and more unique concepts.
I liked the first half of the movie, found the second half frustrating and was left annoyed that with such potential the film makers managed to make a bit of a dogs dinner of it.