‘Working Class Heroes’ KVIFF 2022 review: a Serbian blue collar fantasy

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A ragtag group of low-rent construction workers get revenge on the white collar goons responsible for their reprehensible working conditions (and other crimes) in Working Class Heroes, which comes to this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival following its debut in Berlin earlier this year.

The opening scenes of Working Class Heroes promise a serious look into a hard-hitting social issue: the erosion of low-income housing by unscrupulous corporate investors in growing European cities.

But writer-director Milos Pusic (who put together the screenplay with Ivan Knezevic and Dusan Spasojevic) throws the spotlight on the blue collar workers caught up in the system, and comes away with an amiable, almost lightweight narrative that works its way through some serious subject matter to an audience-pleasing narrative.

In Novi Sad, elderly and low-income tenants are evicted from their homes on the basis of fraudulent documentation from a shady real estate company. Owner Miki (Aleksandar Djurica) has the political connections and lack of morals to make it work, though Lidija (Jasna Djuricic, breakout star of last year’s Quo Vadis, Aida?) shows at least a hint of humanity.

Of course, Miki has no intention of actually refurbishing the structure that he has evacuated residents from; he only wants to create the appearance of a burgeoning new development to lure in German investments.

So he hires our titular Working Class Heroes to meander around the worksite. Led by a gutless project manager and the empathetic Professor (Boris Isakovic), the work crew cleans up the site while waiting on overdue back pay until a confluence of circumstances resulting from the crooked nature of the company they’re working for results in tragedy.

Working Class Heroes is led by two enigmatic performances by Djuricic and Isakovic as sympathetic souls who seem to understand the corrupt nature of the company they work for – but continue to work for it anyway, having been indoctrinated into a system that seems hopeless to fight against.

Most of the action of Working Class Heroes takes place amid the faux construction site that the blue collar workers tend to, and director Pusic creates an amiable, warm-hearted, and naturalistic look into the lives of hard-working laborers that are seen as disposable by the company that employs them.

The climactic events of Working Class Heroes veer sharply into fiction, however, and despite how satisfying it is to see the corporate criminals get their comeuppance, the sense of social realism the movie has carefully built up over its preceding acts is lost in the transition.

There’s an ending that Working Class Heroes has earned, one that aligns with the worldview shared by its lead characters, and one that would have made much more of an impact. What the film ultimately delivers, however, is pure fantasy.

Working Class Heroes

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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