This is Likely Lee Marvin’s last worthwhile role. From 1983 it’s Gorky Park, streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.
- William Hurt as Arkady Renko
- Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne
- Brian Dennehy as William Kirwill
- Ian Bannen as Iamskoy
- Joanna Pacula as Irina Asanova
- Michael Elphick as Pasha
This is based on the book of the same name by Martin Cruz Smith. If you don’t know, Maxim Gorky, otherwise known as Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, was a soviet-styled writer prior to World War II, so it would come as no surprise they named a park in Moscow after him. And that’s what they did, and that’s how the movie got its title.
It’s winter in Gorky Park, and you have to remember in Moscow winter lasts through April. Anyhow, the pond is still frozen solid, and skaters are enjoying the music boomed out at studio level. It sounds like Swan Lake, but eventually we hear chords of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. That will turn out to be significant.
Anyhow, somebody wanders off into the woods and discovers three bodies under the snow. Militia (police) officer Renko is on the scene to investigate when the KGB (since relabeled the GRU) shows up. Do you want the case? No, it’s all right. You can take the case. Then why was the KGB interested in three people dead for three months under the snow with their faces surgically removed, and their fingertips sliced off to prevent identification. Two men were shot center mass and then in the eye. The girl was shot in the head.
Renko is not on good terms with the KGB. He previously arrested a KGB for murder, and he was taken out of sight and beaten. Now he reports to his bosses and gives them the grim details. Chief Prosecutor Iamskoy wants Renko to stay on the case.
The murdered girl was wearing skates, but the name scratched on one blade is another person. Renko tracks her down. She is Irina Asanova, and she is working for a movie production company. She doesn’t know how somebody else got her skates. They were stolen. But she didn’t immediately report the theft.
Renko is invited to Iamskoy’s dacha, which if you are familiar, is a villa. In the Soviet Union some animals were more equal than others. There he meets American businessman Jack Osborne. And there is Irina. She came with Osborne, but she asks Renko to drive her home. In the car he tries to question her, but she objects and gets out of the car.
Renko retrieves the heads of the three victims and has a forensic anthropologist reconstruct them. The girl was a friend of Irina’s. One of the men was an American. The other was another friend of Irina’s
Renko notices somebody following him, and there is an encounter in the snow in a railway yard. Renko loses the fight, and the man gets away, but Renko is sure he is American. He tracks the man down and waits for him to leave his room at the Budapest Hotel. Then he lets himself into the man’s room and searches it. The Soviet Union had no Fourth Amendment.
But the man returns too soon. Meanwhile Renko has discovered a pistol that can be assembled from innocuous parts, and he puts it together and loads it in time to confront the man. He is American Police Detective William Kirwill. He is in the country to look for his brother, who came to Moscow months ago and was never heard from since. It will turn out Kirwill’s brother was one of the three murder victims.
Renko determines the three victims had taken the job of constructing a religious chest. He identifies a merchant involved in the construction. Renko has a partner on the force and he directs him to go look at the chest. The item is inside this door. But inside, also, is a gunman, who kills both of them.
Renko follows Irina, and sees she is being stalked. Through a window he sees somebody attempting to murder her with a lethal injection. He crashes through the window and deals with the assassin.
He helps her recover from the attack, and the two engage in passionate sex.
The KGB confiscates the reconstructed head of James Kirwill, brother of William Kirwill, and Renko and Kirwill follow them. They drive with the reconstructed head to Iamskoy’s dacha, and they watch from concealment as the head is methodically demolished with an ax.
Finally Renko is sure of what has been going on. Osborne is in the fur business, and he wants to smuggle six (three mating pairs) sables out of the country. He has been importing Russian sable, but he wants to break the Russian monopoly and breed his own.
Iamskoy is in on the deal, assisting Osborne in return for a bribe. But Iamskoy has kept Renko on the case to coerce Osborne into upping the ante. When Renko confronts Iamskoy at his spa there is a tussle over the gun, and Iamskoy falls backward over a railing into the pool, dead.
Now, Renko is in deep shit, having killed the chief prosecutor. He works a deal with the KGB. Osborne has fled to Sweden with the sables. He has taken Irina with him. She had been deceived into believing Osborne successfully assisted her two friends along with James Kirwill into escaping the USSR. Now Renko has convinced her the three are dead.
The plan is for Renko to kill Osborne in Sweden along with the six sables. But Renko is sure the KGB will kill him once the deed is done, and he arranges for Kirwill to travel to Sweden to back him up.
But when Renko and the KGB agents arrive at the meeting place, Osborne’s breeding farm outside Stockholm, they discover Osborne is ahead of them in the game. They find Kirwill’s eviscerated corpse roped to a tree.
Osborne is there with Irina. He has a rifle, and he picks off the KGB agents, even the ones hiding out in the woods to finish off Renko. Then it’s down to Renko and Osborne, but Renko has only a pistol.
Irina comes forward, and Osborne threatens to shoot her unless Renko comes out from hiding. Renko comes out, and there is a shot. But Irina fired the shot, and we see Osborne saying to himself, “You shot me. You really shot me.” Next Osborne absorbs multiple hits and expires in the snow.
Irina will continue her escape from the Soviet Union, but Renko will go back to Moscow and report the six sables are dead. He will not mention that Osborne actually smuggled out twelve sables, and Renko sets the remaining six free to romp in the Swedish snow and to reproduce in the wild.
A minor plot flaw is the sable monopoly. Sables breed in the wild all over northern Europe and Asia. The best are in northern Russia, but there was never any problem snagging a few mating pairs and turning them loose near the Finish border, breaking the monopoly.
The first Lee Marvin film I saw was The Caine Mutiny, where he played a sailor called “Meatball.”