Picks and Pans Review: Gorky Park

updated 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Two men and a woman are found savagely murdered in Gorky Park: They have been shot and their faces have been sliced off. Obviously, this is a case for "the best policeman in Moscow," a sallow fellow played by William Hurt. In the course of solving the vicious crime, Hurt rounds up the Russian equivalent of the usual Cold War suspects: some KGB officers; a visiting New York cop whose idealistic brother was one of the victims; a suave, devious American businessman (portrayed to smarmy perfection by Lee Marvin); and a pouty, dissident ex-student (Polish actress Joanna Pacula) who, for better or worse, seems to have pilfered Nastassia Kinski's mannerisms. Martin Cruz Smith's best-selling Gorky Park was a crackling police procedural-cum-travelogue; the grim details of life behind the Iron Curtain were as convincing as they were eye-opening. This movie, in which Helsinki co-stars as Moscow, isn't so persuasive. Director Michael (Coat Miner's Daughter) Apted seems to have confused aridity with atmosphere. Apted's apparent point is that life in contemporary Russia can be almost as routine as life in America, but he force-feeds that view through a parade of sterile scenes. Then he concentrates on some mumbo jumbo about the Soviet monopoly on sable furs, diluting what is essentially a story about the tragic fate of a good cop. Hurt doesn't salvage much either. Playing the detective with a distractingly heavy accent, he recedes into the wallpaper, as if he is afraid to project anything. (Sometimes, less is less.) This may have been a robust novel but it's an anemic movie. (R)

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