Wild League Image

Wild League

By Alex Saveliev | October 29, 2019

“We’re not in hell. We’re in Russia,” an arrogant English aristocrat says. The dichotomy between the British aristocracy and provincial Russia is reiterated numerous times, emphasizing that passion prevails over money. See, those wild Russians show their own–especially when a shady character called Satan enters the picture, and Malika gets involved, making things personal. Backstabbing, scheming, intrigue, and murder all ensue, leading to an inspirational finale: the classy Brits vs. the rural Russky fighters.

The film is spectacularly shot by Ken Blakey, with Guy Ritchie-like, slo-mo brawls emphasizing every punch in the face. Similarly, the football scenes are suspenseful and crisply portrayed. The filmmakers string together several compelling sequences: Varlam showing off his talents to Jones by smashing a football through a shed; Balashov betting his factory on his team; Varlam recruiting two circus performers; doves being released into the air to signify victory or failure. From the film’s costume design to its art direction, the crew nails the period detail. I also appreciated Sean Murray’s folksy period score and the fact that everyone speaks different languages, making for a truly international production.

“…spectacularly shot… with Guy Ritchie-like, slo-mo brawls emphasizing every punch in the face.”

Adrian Paul, known primarily for playing TV’s Highlander, exudes sophistication and easy charm as the cheating, scheming, passionate Parker. His Russian is quite good, too. Also, the actor doesn’t seem to have aged a bit since 1992 (could he be the Highlander in real life?). William Shockley impresses as a has-been player-turned-coach, who’s still got some tricks up his sleeves. Yaglich, a newbie, at times seems startled, but that plays to his character, who’s equally thrust into a world he doesn’t entirely understand.

Sure, there are some niggles. There’s an unnecessary inclusion of a Russian rap song, in an evident attempt to modernize the proceedings and make them appealing to a younger, hip crowd–but it comes off as jarringly anachronistic. It’s all very glossy, quite predictable, and at times needlessly complicated. But, taking several steps back from those niggles, a larger picture appears: that of a changing time in history, a battle of the classes, an introduction of a major sport from one Great Empire to another. In that regard, Wild League will entertain both football (sorry, soccer) fans and those who could care less about the sport.

Wild League (2019)

Directed: Art Camacho

Written: Roman Vladykin, Igor Dobrovolsky

Starring: Adrian Paul, William Shockley, Vilen Babichev, Vladimir Yaglych, Ivan Okhlobystin, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Wild League Image

"…will entertain both...soccer fans and those who could care less about the sport."

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