Schizo is the coming-of-age story of a young Mustafa (Oldzhas Nusupbayev), aka Schizo for his strange behavior. Doctors believe he is schizophrenic, but he could just as easily be slow. The story itself, by director Gulshat Omarova (Sisters) and Sergei Bodrov (Bear's Kiss, The Quickie) is pretty standard. A young person (typically a guy) grows up in poor, barren circumstances. He gets involved in some unsavory things, and is forced to grow up before his time. What is unique about Schizo is that it takes place in rural Kazakhstan, and stars Nusupbayev.

Nusupbayev is not a trained actor, and this is probably what made him right for the part. He maintains a quiet demeanor, and has a haunting look to his eyes. Schizo always looks like he is someplace far off. There's really nothing for him at home, which is why he agrees to help his mother's boyfriend Sakura (Eduard Tabishev). Sakura is a small time crook who recruits people to fight in matches. He earns money off the bets people make. Sakura enlists Schizo because nobody knows who Schizo is, and he can recruit people without worrying about harassment. Schizo takes place in the early 1990s, when Kazakhstan had nothing going for it. There is little to do, and the life is desperate for everybody. In one sense, Schizo's tale is representative of Kazakhstan and other former Soviet Republics as a whole.

Storywise, Schizo is a bit on the sparse side. Part of this is intentional, since Omarova wants to show the isolation and nothingness in Schizo's life. She also uses some hauntingly beautiful imagery to bring to life some of the stark landscapes. Schizo latches onto Zina, a young woman (Olga Landina) taking care of a child. One of Sakura's fighters was helping her by giving her money, and Schizo believes he can do the same. The Schizo character is interesting because the film never identifies if he is truly schizophrenic. But because of this potential stigma, everybody treats him like he's an idiot. He even thinks less of himself. So when everything around him begins to backfire, it makes the actions he take seem all the more dangerous. Nobody knows what is going through his mind, or what he will do.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Russian with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some language and sensuality, probably an R or PG-13.

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