This small film about a troubled boy caught up in the seedy world of bare-knuckle boxing moves too slowly for its own good. Though it captures many sharp, stark details of life in poverty-stricken Kazakhstan, "Schizo's" momentum is so measured, it nearly lulls its audience to sleep.
This coming-of-age-through-crime story focuses on Mustafa (Olzhas Nusuppaev), a 15-year-old nicknamed Schiza, or Schizo, because of a mental condition that forces him to pop pills and visit doctors his mother can only afford to pay with eggs and homemade sour cream. He sees potential relief from his depressing existence in his mother's boyfriend, Sakura (Eduard Tabyschev), who offers Schizo a job helping him recruit fighters bound for brutal beatings in illegal, underground matches. One winds up so badly battered that he dies before Schizo's eyes, but not before handing him a wad of money and asking the teenager to deliver it to the boxer's young son and girlfriend, Zinka (Olga Landina). By honoring that wish, Schizo stumbles upon the opportunity to be a real, responsible man for the first time.
Nusuppaev, who bears a passing resemblance to a rougher version of actor Emile Hirsch ("The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys"), is convincing as a conflicted adolescent who can't decide whether he wants to smoke cigarettes or play with Matchbox cars. Director Guka Omarova also succeeds at conveying the bleakness and desperation of his young hero's situation. Yet as admirable as some of the film might be, it's ultimately too sluggish and dreary to be very memorable. And when it comes to cinema, memorable beats admirable in the ring every time.
SCHIZO (Unrated, 86 minutes) --Contains violence, adult language and some sexual situations. In Russian with English subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.