Back in the U.S.S.R.: William Hurt Investigates Soviet-Style in Michael Apted’s Gorky Park

Arkady Renko (William Hurt, right) tries to shed a light on the role of Irina Asanova (Joanna Pacula, left) in the brutal murder of three people.
Arkady Renko (William Hurt, right) tries to shed a light on the role of Irina Asanova (Joanna Pacula, left) in the brutal murder of three people.

For half of a century, the Soviet Union was the one big enemy of all Western countries as well as a welcome antagonist in a myriad of books, movies, and television shows. Portraits of the socialist empire were usually fairly one-sided and sketchy. It was the time of the Cold War, after all, and the ‘Free World’ of capitalism was seen as the polar opposite of the Russian-led ‘Evil Empire’ from the East. The crime novel Gorky Park by American writer Martin Cruz Smith was probably one of the first serious attempts to craft a story set in the Soviet Union. A fine thriller making its way all to the top of the New York Times bestsellers, it came as no surprise that the book was soon adapted to the big screen by Hollywood. In light of the more recent global events, it’s perhaps also not a bad idea to revisit the movie.

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