Sanja the Bandit after a particularly vicious shootout, stumbles into the musician Oleg at the local banya. Following a retelling of a semi-mythological story, the pair decide to make a pilgrimage to a "bell-tower of happiness".
A huge black SUV is rolling down a desolate summer road. In it are the Bandit, his friend Matthew with his old father, the Musician, and a beautiful girl. They are looking for the Bell Tower of Happiness which, according to rumors, is located somewhere between St. Petersburg and Uglich, near an abandoned nuclear power plant. The Bell Tower takes people away; not everyone, however. But each person in the huge black vehicle believes that he will be one of the chosen.
The film features mostly non-professional actors, all of whom are directed to perfection. The story is easy to follow, the characters have color and authenticity. I would have preferred a little more economy with some sequences, it seems Balabanov slowed his pace a bit compared to his earlier films, but being that this is a film of spiritual contemplation that is not a bad direction to err in. At the same time, Balabanov keeps his sense of humor and that makes the story more fun to absorb. This is definitely a fitting end to a career of a lively director who's body of work is not as known in the west as it should be, and a great invitation to contemplate, in a non-pretentious manner, the question of what 'happiness' is.