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By Phil Hall | March 27, 2005

From Kazakhstan and first-time filmmaker Guka Omarova comes “Schizo,” a mild and forgettable drama about a young man’s unlikely coming of age. The eponymous character is Mustafa, a 15-year-old who is supposedly mentally unbalanced and who is kicked out of school for being so disruptive. He falls into a new opportunity when his mother’s low-life boyfriend employs him to recruit fighters for illegal, underground boxing matches. At one match, a boxer is badly wounded and is a few breaths away from dying when he gives Mustafa his earnings with the instructions to deliver the cash to the figher’s girlfriend. Mustafa runs this errand, but finds himself attracted to the fighter’s girlfriend. Although she is twice his age and has a toddler to raise, he keeps returning to her home and falls into the role of surrogate husband/father. But requiring the funds to keep his new family together, Mustafa redoubles his efforts as an illegal fight recruiter to raise more cash.

“Schizo”has a compelling screenplay, to be certain. But sadly, Omarova’s direction is too leisurely to wring any emotional power. The film is populated primarily with non-professional actors, and their lack of experience shows – especially with young Olzhas Nusuppaev as Mustafa. The young man looks good on camera, but he cannot act and his lack of range deprives the film of an emotional core it sorely needs.

“Schizo” was co-produced and co-produced by the award-winning filmmaker Sergey Bodrov, who had previously cast Omarova as an actress in his earlier films. According to the press notes, Omarova chased Bodrov off the set and out of the editing room during the production of “Schizo.” Considering the unsatisfactory results she brought forth, perhaps it would’ve been wiser if she allowed Bodrov to hang around and offer much-needed advice on how to make a movie.

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