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Does Russia's 'Major Grom: Plague Doctor' Deliver On Netflix Hit Status?

Major Grom Plague Doctor Mayor Grom: Chumnoy Doktor Lyubov Aksyonova Yulia Pchyolkina Tikhon Zhiznevsky Mayor Grom Chumnoy Doktor Aleksandr Seteykin Dmitry Dima Dubin Sergei Goroshko Sergei Razumovsky Dmitry Chebotaryov Oleg Volkov
Walt Disney Productions / Netflix

If you have been paying attention to Netflix’s most-watched content in the United States, then you may have noticed a Russian-language film. “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” (“Mayor Grom: Chumnoy Doktor”) is an action-adventure film with a quirky detective at the center of it. After quite a few days in the top ten, overall, the movie is currently sitting as the #4 most-watched movie on the streaming giant as of July 15.

It seems to be showing quite a bit of stamina. The Russian movie joins several Russian TV series on Netflix, including the fantastic “Silver Spoon,” sci-fi drama “Better Than Us,” and the pandemic thriller “To the Lake,” among others. So, to say that “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” comes on the heels of a lot of worthy series entering Netflix would be an understatement. So, does this movie measure up?

Much like Russia’s “The Method” does, “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” centers on police detective Igor Grom (Tikhon Zhiznevskiy), an eccentric and determined force in law enforcement. Grom even sports the brown leather flat hat worn by Rodion Meglin in Russia’s “The Method.” While not an homage considering the Major Grom comic book’s release date of 2012, it is a flourish that touches the cord of another brilliant Russian detective.

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Thus, endearing Grom to a knowing audience. In this debut screen venture, which feels like the set-up for a series, Major Grom has to deal with Sergei Razumovsky (Sergei Goroshko), a social media powerhouse whose newly unveiled platform gives rise to the “Plague Doctor.” At first, a Punisher-like character, the Plague Doctor’s descent into balancing the scales of justice leads to queasy results far from Punisher-level nobility.

At first, “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” seems primed to have created a mystery for itself before undermining its own suspense. It is a move that cuts down on a lot of tension. Thus, allowing the proverbial led out of the balloon in many ways. Nevertheless, the movie manages to stay afloat thanks to Yulia (Lyubov Aksyonova), a YouTube-type citizen journalist with flame-red hair, and Grom’s trainee, Dima Dubin (Alexander Seteykin).

Unfortunately, none of it quite materializes with the synergy or flow that Russia’s detective-centric series have showcased. In one of the more disappointing aspects, actress Lyubov Aksyonova does not get as much to play with as she does in “Silver Spoon” Season 2. A loss considering how much that TV show demonstrates she can do. To date, Ekaterina Ignatieva remains Aksyonova’s best role.

As a mystery movie, “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” does not quite hit, and that is a shame because the special effects and overall presentation are mind-blowingly brilliant. This is a film that I went into with expectations, which certainly plays into how yours truly received it. All told, I am thrilled to see a Russian film receive such a reception, and it is a decent movie.

So, it is not a bummer by any stretch. There is just so much that feels seen and heard before that “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” cannot quite capture the nuance of previously seen entries. For instance, the social media inventor -- Sergei Razumovsky -- plays with a strong dose of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in “Batman vs. Superman.”

Of course, a sense of deja’vu will “plague” any genre film at this point. As of 2021, there has been an onslaught of detective and superhero movies, both things that “Major Grom” seems to embody. But, like any good magic trick, the flip side comes in presenting it in a way that feels new. Russia’s “The Crew” and “Run!” have done that with their genres.

If there is a sequel to “Major Grom: Plague Doctor,” hopefully this franchise could. The movie is currently streaming on Netflix. It is not the first Russian film on the streamer, and it will not be the last. More are set to debut later this month. For now, you can catch up on “Silver Skates,” among others.

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