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The Luzhin Defence (2001)



Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 71
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 30

Tuturro and Watson play well off each other in this intriguing and well-crafted film.


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Critic Reviews: 23
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 8

Tuturro and Watson play well off each other in this intriguing and well-crafted film.



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Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 1,228

My Rating

Movie Info

A lush historical drama from Dutch director Marlene Gorris, The Luzhin Defense is set in Como, a gorgeous northern Italian lakeside town located at the foot of the Alps. The year is 1929, and Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro) is a talented Russian chess player travelling to Como by train for the World Chess Championship. Also on his train is Natalia (Emily Watson), who is journeying to Como to meet her mother Vera (Geraldine James) at their posh lakeside hotel. Vera wants Natalia to settle down


Art House & International, Drama

Peter Berry

Sep 18, 2001

Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (87) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (30) | DVD (8)

Makes up for a creaky structure with the intensity of emotion and psychological nuance provided by two of our finest screen actors.

June 14, 2001 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It plays a predictable, if pretty, game.

May 21, 2001
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As brave as it is affecting.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When Luzhin's old chess teacher shows up, the movie becomes a slow-motion wreck.

May 18, 2001 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If The Luzhin Defence falls short of being totally absorbing and compelling, it's surely because it's so difficult to translate Nabokov's view that we are all pawns in the big game.

May 17, 2001
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Turturro supplies some good moments, but without a believable emotional core the film falls short

February 21, 2011 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews
Old School Reviews

Vale por completo la pena, y, si gustan del juego ciencia, es una cinta obligada.

August 8, 2002

More lyrical and affecting than the stiffly contrived A Beautiful Mind. Profoundly in touch with the miracle and curse of a fragile, fanatical artistic sensibility.

January 1, 2002 Full Review
WBAI Web Radio

A dishonest adaptation of an unsentimental book.

October 12, 2001 Full Review Source: Charlotte Observer
Charlotte Observer

One has to assume that Sony Pictures Classics hopes to attract Nabokov-philes to theaters. And, boy, will they be pissed.

September 4, 2001 Full Review Source: Premiere Magazine
Premiere Magazine

Further proof that director Marleen Gorris ... can't shape a scene.

June 7, 2001 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

While [Turturro] certainly nails the bizarre outer manifestations of Luzhin's eccentricity, he never makes us care.

May 25, 2001 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

The chess scenes, especially toward the end, are filmed with an attempted frenzy that borders on laughable.

May 24, 2001 Full Review Source: Lawrence Journal-World
Lawrence Journal-World

There are very real pleasures to be had.

May 23, 2001 Full Review Source: Journal News (Westchester, NY)
Journal News (Westchester, NY)

"A sedate, simplistic, dispiriting film about chess and madness. 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' is better."

May 23, 2001 Full Review Source:

Capable but not transporting, never unraveling the mystery of its hero's genius or, worse, making us care enough to look deeper.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Turturro's stormy and quirky performance is the ... highlight of a film that makes all the familiar chess moves.

May 21, 2001
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A predictable, emotionally unengaging, and occasionally corny story.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Pretty much just a string of words and ideas and stick-figure characters who never become fully formed.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

The film is a letdown, alas, almost squandering all the fine acting and lovely scenery.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for The Luzhin Defence

Fantastic film, John Turturro should have got an Oscar for his portrayal of a troubled chess master. Honestly, it?s much better than it sounds!
October 2, 2009

Super Reviewer

    1. Alexander Luzhin: I need a defense, that's what I need.
    – Submitted by Frances H (12 months ago)
    1. Valentinov: You will never be more than you are now, Alexander, and trust me in this. What you are now isn't goo enough.
    – Submitted by Frances H (12 months ago)
View all quotes (2)

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