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Review: ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ shows Russian capital to good effect

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Lubov Aksenova in the film “Moscow Never Sleeps.”
(Cavu Pictures)

Irish filmmaker Johnny O’Reilly has spent years living and working in Russia, and pours his thoughts and impressions of his adopted home into the ensemble drama “Moscow Never Sleeps.” Modeled after “everything’s connected” movies like “Short Cuts” and “Magnolia,” this slickly produced if somewhat dry multi-character study makes good use of location.

Set entirely within the 24 hours of Moscow’s annual City Day celebration, the film follows locals of varying social backgrounds, from a famous comedian (Yuri Stoyanov) and a rich businessman (Alexey Serebryakov) to a criminal (Rustam Akhmadeyev) and two working-class teenage stepsisters (Lubov Aksenova and Anastasia Shalonko). O’Reilly jumps from story to story, gradually revealing how these people are related.

“Moscow Never Sleeps” is well made but stilted, following too many characters to give any their due. If it were set in Los Angeles or New York it would come off as too generic to sustain any substantial interest.

But given the widespread fascination with modern Russian culture in the wake of recent events, it’s eye-opening to see a movie that shows Moscow from the perspective of someone who’s at once an outsider and insider.

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More than a slice-of-life piece, “Moscow Never Sleeps” is ultimately a portrait of a thriving, eclectic modern metropolis with its own unique political and cultural struggles.

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‘Moscow Never Sleeps’

In Russian with English subtitles

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Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills

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