Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Fourth Man (2007) Film Review
The Fourth Man
Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths
The Fourth Man has been described as an east European cross between Leon, The Bourne Identity and Oldboy. A hitman? Check. Memory loss? Yep. Tragic killer twist? Bingo. A nod to the ingenuity of Memento wouldn’t go amiss either. Nonetheless, while the film lends itself to some obvious parallels and useful comparisons at first sight, ultimately it’s an undermining association. The Fourth Man is not trying to be any of those great films, but can sit confidently alongside them. It has enough idiosyncratic character, cinematic poise and narrative integrity to stand alone as another impressive film from Dejan Zecevic, a Serbian director of increasing international renown.
Nikola Kojo plays Lazar, a man awakening in hospital after a coma of some two months. Suffering from total amnesia he slowly starts to piece together his past, trying to discover who he was and how he came to be shot in the head at point blank range. It’s a journey of drip-fed information and painful intermittent flashbacks for both him and us as we learn more about what may have happened. When the seductive Teodora (Marija Karan), a would-be friend from old Pukovnik (Bogdan Diklic) and a helpful but secretive police inspector (Dragan Petrovic Pele) all become involved, so the lines of the increasingly bloody map are drawn. As events unfold, Zecevic paces an engrossing, wily thriller with bursts of tense action that becomes evermore involving.
The cast are uniformly solid and Kojo is a bulky, lumbering and powerful lead, with heavy-lidded eyes staring out over dour bags. When we first see him he certainly looks as though he’s been near death and back. As Lazar’s physical and mental rehabilitation progresses Kojo’s quiet performance reveals sensitive subtleties, convincing nascent nuances of character from a man who barely knows who he is himself. With an inner confidence coupled with an apparent lack of concern for his own safety at times (do you care about yourself less if you don’t know who you are?), he cuts an increasingly tragic figure who we warm to, until we’re wrong-footed.
Lazar’s personal history is entwined with his country’s and so Zecevic stitches him into the wider canvas of Serbia’s darkest days in the Balkan war. The actions of individuals, victims and perpetrators, and the government authorities then and now are explored with a frankness that adds to the narrative’s emotional impact.
Unfortunately, as the plot strands wind together with swelling tension they eventually denature under the pressure in the denouement with an almost audible crumpling. There are no Leon-style fireworks to round off the stealthily built strain of Lazar’s story, which is superficially less satisfying. Still, more sustaining is the fact that this is deliberate and fitting. This is a dramatic story of people living with the after-effects of a modern war filled with ferocious atrocities, vivid memories (for most) remaining long after it has passed out of international media consciousness. There should be no easy, pat closure.
Zecevic complements his screenplay with mature direction while his cinematographer, Goran Volarevi?, delivers a gorgeous, measured picture that is apiece with the tones and themes frame after frame. Overall, an intelligently wrought and visually textured thriller.Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2008