Okay, here comes a less serious post ...
I recently watched Eastern Promises (2007), a slightly orientalist drama movie directed by David Cronenberg, which is about a midwife in London who gets dangerously involved with the Russian old-school mafia when she tries to find out something about a patient of hers who died while giving birth.
The gangsters in this film are supposed to be trüe Воры в законе, a form of organisation that dates back to the late 20's to early 30's. While they still exist today, they should not be confused with a considerable part of the modern Russian mafia, who don't follow the same strict codes.
Almost none of the Russians in the film are real Russians, and most of them are not all that convincing, but Viggo Mortensen (half Danish, half US American) alone is a reason to watch this film over and over again. He plays the truly badass Nikolai, a coldblooded gangster, the hardest of the hard, who has a slight obsessive-compulsive disorder and a sick sense of humour. As well as an almost authentic Russian flavour.
Apparently Viggo prepared for his role by travelling by himself to Siberia (where Nikolai is from originally), hanging out with random Russians, some of them criminals, and watching them and copying their behaviour. The way he moves and the facial expressions he wears as Nikolai are really spot-on.
While his Russian could be even better (some of the "hard" consonants, not least ф, б and ш, as well as the vowel ы, can be very difficult), his accent holds a rarely high standard for any non-Russian actor pretending to be Russian.
Listen to Nikolai "the undertaker" explain what he is about to do. Guess what the sound at the end of the clip is.
Getting the pliers out and that silk tie out of the way.
Kirill and Nikolai dump a body. Listen to Nikolai explain the location ...
Anna the midwife has a nice Soviet motorbike inherited from her Russian father (she is half Russian, but doesn't speak any Russian and is totally assimilated into British society; one of the reasons why she can't keep her fingers from this case might actually be curiosity about her own Russian roots).
At one point, the bike's engine gets wet and it won't start. Nikolai sees her struggle with it, and his Russian Male Pride at first suggests that she can't start the bike because she as a woman is not strong enough to kick it properly.
But he, albeit being a strong and badass Russian Man, can't start the bike, either ...
- Have you ever met a girl called Tatyana?
- I met lot of girls called Tatyana.
- She was pregnant.
- Ah. In that case - no, I never heard of her. Heh.
Threatening Russian gesture.
(Click to enlarge.) The importance of tattoos is perhaps a little bit overdramatized in the film, but Viggo by himself conducted extensive research to ensure that the tattoos of his character were exactly like what he would have if he were a real, existing person.
The tattoos of Russian criminals often mark the tattooed person's criminal history and prison experiences, so Nikolai's tattoos should reflect his history - the crimes he had commited, his prison sentences and special punishments like solitary confinement.
In fact, in an interview in the DVD extras he tells about how he one day went to a pub straight from the set, without washing off his fake tattoos or changing his hairstyle. There was a Russian couple at the pub, and Viggo listened to them talking and tried to see if he could learn something or recognise some words. Then all of a sudden they fell quiet, and he looked over to them and saw that they were staring at the tattoos on his hands, looking quite horrified. Viggo felt bad about scaring them, but he was also happy that he was able to look so convincing.
(Click to enlarge.) The guy who plays the tattoo artist (one of the few native Russian-speakers in the film) is aware of the dangers in this movie popularizing Russian criminal tattoos. So, in an interview he explains that if a Вор would see a фраер (non-criminal, "normal citizen", a potential victim) with these stars tattooed on them, he would get someone - or do it himself - and cut the pieces of flesh with the tattoos off that person, because he has not earned them.
(Click to enlarge.)
The church with the three towers on Nikolai's back symbolizes the three prison sentences that he has served. (Click to enlarge.)
There is also an incredibly intense fight scene where Nikolai fights naked against two other gangsters, but though I made a lot of screencaps of it I don't think they are quite suitable for a family website like Chirayliq. Watch the movie. You won't regret it. (Indeed, Viggo had nothing really to be ashamed of.)