A vision of hell on the Russian roads in 'The Road Movie'

Byline: By Walter Addiego

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, San Francisco Chronicle

Byline: By Walter Addiego

The lesson we might draw from the Russian documentary ``The Road Movie'' is that something bad is going to happen sooner or later, and more likely sooner than later. The film is a compilation of found footage taken by dashboard cameras depicting many incidents of vehicular mayhem and some plain weirdness -- after a while, it feels like we must be watching a real-life demolition derby.

Dash-cams are evidently common in Russia, and we can see why, given the strange, deranged and simply scary events we behold. Some of the bits are even funny, and overall there's a keen sense of absurdity, such that, if you choose to believe the Russian people have a fatalistic streak, ``The Road Movie'' suggests why.

There's no commentary or explanation provided for the events, we simply overhear the words of the drivers and passengers, whose language is remarkably full of profanity, if the English subtitles are accurate. Trucks jack-knife on snowy roads, cars plunge into bodies of water, or flip over without explanation, or pile up on a freeway.

In a textbook case of road rage, one flipped-out driver pulls a handgun from his car and begins firing at the front of the vehicle filming the scene. In a nighttime incident, some men quiz a roadside prostitute about her rates for various activities, then guffaw about it as they drive off. A woman pumping gas in the evening flicks on a lighter to check how much fuel she's purchased, with spectacularly fiery results.

When two cars on a narrow street approach each other head on, any possibility of confrontation ends abruptly when one of the drivers takes a sledgehammer from his car and begins walking toward the other vehicle. And the most out-and-out frightening event has a lunatic leaping on the hood of a car driven by a terrified woman who is unable to dislodge him.

A few sequences show events with an apocalyptic edge: We see a comet streak across the sky, or a plane heading downward toward a crash, or find ourselves being driven through the middle of a forest fire.

At no point does filmmaker Dmitrii Kalashnikov push an interpretation on us, but he hardly needs to. Despite the sometimes wacky nature of the content, the movie has no trouble inspiring a sense of dread in the viewer, as catastrophe succeeds catastrophe. Kalashnikov is also smart enough to keep ``The Road Movie'' down to 67 minutes, which is all he needs to create this particular vision of hell. (And, by the way, he does so without showing bloody or mangled bodies.)

Stick around for the credits, which include some bits of information about each incident, including how many online viewers have seen uploaded versions of each sequence.

Walter Addiego is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: waddiego@sfchronicle.com.

The Road Movie

3 stars out of 4 stars Documentary. Directed by Dmitrii Kalashnikov. In Russian with English subtitles. Not rated. 67 minutes.

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