The Death of Stalin

Director: Armando Iannucci
Year Released: 2017
Rating: 2.0

Following the demise of the title dictator (Adrian McLoughlin), the rest of his staff, including Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Molotov (Michael Palin) and the repulsive rapist Beria (Simon Russell Beale) try to figure out who's next in line to run the Soviet Union. Iannucci's gift is creating lively characters who know how to banter, and there are several truly amusing moments (mostly involving Uncle Joe's drunken son, played by Rupert Friend, and Jason Isaacs' scene-stealing Field Marshal Zhukov), but the main 'joke,' about murderous oafs in a deliriously corrupt nation backstabbing each other while oppressing and torturing their own populace, runs its course well before the movie concludes (it doesn't help that Czar Putin's Russia still operates like this). The fact that he didn't have the cast attempt this with Russian accents is probably for the best (although initially it is a distraction) - I would have never thought to hire Buscemi from Brooklyn to play Mr. Bay of Pigs, but it's a wise selection: Steve brings out whatever fragments of humanity remained in the polarizing statesman.