The Persian Connection


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Persian Connection
"The Persian Connection is anchored by an affecting performance from Safai."

It was one of the most shocking acts of the war that took place around the Persian Gulf between 1980 and 1988, and one that reportedly led to breakdowns on the part of Iraqi soldiers who witnessed it. Backed into a corner, the Ayatollah Khomeini recruited an army of children to defend Iran, sending them to clear minefields and supply the front line. With keys hanging around their necks, they were told that, should they die, they could enter directly into Paradise. When we first meet him, Behrouz is such a child, urged on to glory by a horseman in a feathered helmet, buraq-like and heroic; but Behrouz hesitates. It only takes a moment, and then he hears the gunfire from over the hill, and his destiny is forever altered.

A shift like this can be difficult to process. Years later, Behrouz (now played by Reza Sixo Safai) is living in America, engaging in petty sins and petty crimes, racked by survivor's guilt. And perhaps it's not only that. He still strains toward the Paradise that somehow eluded him. The mundane world produces endless disappointment, despite the fun he has with his Russian lover Oksana (Helena Mattsson) and his burgeoning success in real estate.

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To make his business work, Behrouz needs money, and that brings him back into contact with some dangerous people. When a case of drugs goes missing, he and Oksana find themselves in the firing line. She's desperate to protect her young son (Gregory Kasyan), so she shares her own underworld contacts in a desperate bid to get them out of trouble. But between vengeful gangster kingpin Cirrus (Parviz Sayyad), the Persian 'princess' Lola (Laura Harring) whose affections Behrouz has scorned, and Julian Sands' spectacularly unhinged queer Russian crime lord, whose wardrobe gives the horseman a run for his money, the fleeing couple seem doomed from the start.

The Persian Connection is anchored by an affecting performance from Safai. This is all the more important because it's packed with quirky characters, tangled backstories and dramatic visual elements which could easily unbalance it otherwise. The quirkiness, in its turn, helps to overcome what might otherwise have become too formulaic, and adds to the tension, making the interplay of different elements difficult to predict. Mattsson does a lot to bring humanity to a character who might otherwise have been merely decorative, and there are a host of good supporting performances from capable actors who simply don't get enough opportunities on the big screen.

Steven Capitano Calitri's cinematography keeps us in familiar thriller territory for much of the running time but gives some scenes a transcendent beauty which is key to appreciating the spiritual journey underscoring Behrouz's choices. There's a lot of technical skill on display here, though it's often sensibly muted. For all the predictable elements of the film, it's well structured and the pacing is impressive given the number of different threads involved. The result is a satisfying little thriller with more than usual going on upstairs, and with emotional depth that does justice to its narrative origins.

Reviewed on: 13 Jul 2017
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An Iranian gangster wrongly accused of stealing from his boss is forced to hunt down stolen goods.

Director: Daniel Grove

Writer: Daniel Grove

Starring: Reza Sixo Safai, Helena Mattsson, Parviz Sayyad, Julian Sands, Dominic Rains, Laura Harring

Year: 2016

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: US


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