“Career Opportunities in Organized Crime” opens with a written indemnification of the filmmakers and the theater from any legal liability. That certainly catches your attention. We are almost promised that by watching the film, we are putting ourselves in eminent danger. Cut to Vladimir Kaminsky, “District Manager, Clan Khordorkovskoi.” Questions immediately rise to the surface as to whether or not this is an actual documentary about the Russian mob! You see, Vlad is making a recruitment video for his organization, hoping to appeal to the younger generation with computer skills. His marketing strategies, however, are a bit, how shall I say this, “unappealing.” No, “petrifying” is more appropriate. As the guy behind the camera begins to fear for his life as he captures the mob’s most intimate workings, he realizes he must complete his job in order to survive.
This virtual reality “mockumentary,” written and directed by Alexander Roman Oshmyansky, stars Rick Irwin (“The Good Doctor”), Malcolm Mills (“Tenured”) and Andrzej Krukowski, is a shockingly dark comedy with a bit of exaggerated reality in the dialogue and storyline. We see the characters, no matter their initial moral compass, swing to polar extremes, as the local mob is being “evaluated” by the homeland. Their new recruit turns out to be the nerdy pharmacy tech, Nicholas (Mills) who was Vlad’s son’s best friend back in high school. After being rejected by a girl and continually told by his parents that he is a loser, Nicholas pulls the trigger and joins the Clan. His computer skills allow this branch of the Clan to improve their bottom line, bolstering his position not only in the Clan but in Vlad’s eyes. The sibling rivalry between the two “boys” and Nicholas’ need for other’s approval create a sinister yet somehow funny scenario that will leave your jaw agape.
Mills and I had a chance to talk about his role in this pitch black comedy earlier in the month. After having seen him in a favorite Tribeca Film Festival movie, “Tenured,” which is also an off-beat comedy, I wanted to know why he wanted this role as “Nicholas.” You could hear the energy in his voice as he quickly responded, “I love playing villains and mad scientists!” It turns out that he is inspired by Jack Nicholson with his performance in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and several of Willem Defoe’s characters.
Much like his character of “Nicholas” who is initially a sweet young man, lacking confidence, but quickly changes as he receives a dose of positive reinforcement, Mills began acting as a child, doing improvisational routines at the local mall before getting his first real acting gig. He chuckles as he recalls recreating adaptations of films and fairy tales to all who would gather. This adorable sounding youngster has honed his acting skills as we see his career taking off. In “Career Opportunities in Organized Crime,” Mills handily shows us the spectrum of characters he is able to portray with uncanny believability. Mills has a standout performance in this film as he goes from the innocent boy next door to a heartless mobster. This transformation happens before your very eyes as Mills changes his body language, expressions, and even his vocal quality very subtly to create this different persona. Krukowski also has a memorable performance as he too possesses the ability to horrify you with his actions, yet appeal to your sympathy in the next scene.
The script is clever, intelligent, and above all uniquely funny. We are always watching through the lens of the documentary camera, giving it the story an even sharper edge. It is reminiscent of “Arrested Development” but seeing the dark side of it. The situations and dialogue create the humor and the underlying tone bring it to a violent level. Coordinating all of this in perfect harmony is the result of skillful direction. Mills shared that one of his favorite aspects of this film is the climactic scene has a huge twist of betrayal. From my perspective, there were plenty of those twists of betrayal that were more than unsettling—they were downright startling, which just adds to the overall appeal and enjoyment of this unusual film.
“Career Opportunities in Organized Crime” is a violently dark comedy that will shock and entertain you as well as make you laugh. Be sure to check out this film, available on demand on Wednesday, August 31st on Reelhouse.org on iOS, Android, and desktop.