Max von Sydow in "Branded." (Roadside Attractions )
A movie contemptuous of advertising, the choppy, formless dystopian-sci-fi doodad "Branded" wasn't screened for critics and was barely hyped before release last Friday, which means some marketing choices aren't that unwise.
Misha (a charmless Ed Stoppard) is a Moscow-based ad executive and sometime spy who falls for the boss' American niece (Leelee Sobieski), a go-getter producing a makeover reality show that backfires when its plus-size star goes into a coma, ushering in a worldwide big-is-beautiful movement, which is really a global conspiracy cooked up on a Polynesian island by a fast-food corporate cabal and a marketing guru (Max von Sydow).
Follow? That's just the first half.
Writers-producers-directors Jamie Bradshaw and Alexsandr Dulerayn then send disillusioned Misha to a lonely place where he sacrifices a red cow, before giving him visions of corporate brands as groaning bulbous creatures emanating from consumers' heads.
The movie is so packed with ideological pretension and forced whimsy it has no time for characterization or cohesion, despite its scrappy use of post-Communist Russia as ground zero for capitalism's next nightmare scenario. "Branded" trashes an ad-saturated culture, but with a sour side effect — making fun of the overweight — and a story so convolutedly insipid it needs narration to fill in the gaps.
To borrow a hamburger chain's refrain, not lovin' it.
MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Playing: In general release