The Moscow Times:
Filipp Yankovsky’s “The Swordbearer”
The film’s hero, Sasha, is played by the lithe Artyom Tkachenko, who occasionally looks like a new version of the antihero that the late Sergei Bodrov Jr. played in Balabanov’s “Brother” films, but without any of the charisma. He has one distinguishing feature: a blade-like instrument that has been embedded — mysteriously, and unexplainedly — in his hand since childhood.
It’s the kind of protection device that Russian gangsters could only dream of, given that it vanishes at will. When required, it can wreak bloody havoc on a whole range of supporting characters, from prison guards to prisoners, as well as on some others who are closer to the movie’s main romantic action: a developing relationship between Sasha and Katya (Chulpan Khamatova, a talented actress who really should know better than to commit to this kind of schlock).
The final scenes, involving some spectacular helicopter shots, suggest that Sasha’s hidden talent could be an asset for the Russian forestry industry as well, as he manages to demolish a fair proportion of seaside trees in the film’s concluding chase.
For those who cherish graphic depictions of various kinds of severed limbs, there’s much to enjoy here (there are also some intriguing sex scenes for viewers who find that gushing blood isn’t enough). In terms of sheer sadistic effect, “The Swordbearer” competes with “Junk” and “Hunting for Piranha,” two other Russian films from earlier this year that stood out on the violence front — though given their disappointing results, it seems audiences aren’t exactly queuing up for gore. Perhaps a welcome thought if you’re coming home on a dark night.