Title: Operation Odessa
Director: Tiller Russel
Main Cast: Tarzan, Juan Almeida, Tony Yester.
Runtime: 95 mins.
IMDb rating: 7.8/10.
My rating: 8/10.
Quick summary: Ludwig Fainberg (Tarzan) came to America in the 1980s and quickly set about filling his time and the state of Florida with debauchery, drugs and crime. Along with friends Juan Almeida and Tony Yester, they bought weapons, helicopters and mountains of drugs for different cartels and mafias. Was attempting to buy a weapons-grade Soviet-era submarine a step too far?
This is probably the first documentary I’ve watched in a long time. Crime thrillers and gory action movies were just the tonic I needed for the beginning of this lockdown in Ireland. Once I saw this pop up in the ‘Trending’ column on Netflix, however, I had a feeling that I’d found a gem. I was right.
Operation Odessa tells the story of Ludwig Fainberg, a Russian native who came to New York City in the 1980s. After being forced to leave and go to Miami, he opened a nightclub and restaurant. Both Porkies and Babushka became hotbeds of organised crime and chaotic debauchery. ‘Tarzan’, as Fainberg started calling himself, made the acquaintance of Juan Almeida, an extravagantly rich businessman who made himself available to his new friend and other gangsters as a buyer of illegal and expensive things.
The two became fast friends, travelling to Moscow at the fall of the Soviet Union to buy helicopters and other weapons on the cheap. They travelled all over Europe together. They lived the high life.
Nelson ‘Tony’ Yester, a Colombian cartel member with apparent ties to Pablo Escobar became friends with the dangerous pair and from then on their operations got a little more serious. Tarzan’s larger than life personality, Almeida’s endless bankroll and Yester’s danger made the trio a formidable group of criminals.
Several DEA and FBI agents are interviewed about their arduous task of trying to take the gang down.
There are countless crazy stories that are told in this hour and a half doc. One particular scene in which a DEA agent, ‘Yasevic’, is having dinner with Tarzan while trying to get information about the upcoming bid on a nuclear submarine is fantastic television. It truly shows that Tarzan is not as oafish as he makes out in his interviews. He is a highly intelligent criminal with a talent for violence and menace.
Tony Yester’s intro to the documentary is one of the coolest pieces of filmmaking I have seen in a long time. Even now, I get chills remembering the scene. I won’t spoil it as I do urge every single one of you to go and watch this as soon as possible.
If you would like to read more about it first then check out this fantastic article on CBS, here. I read this about half an hour ago and it has extra details that the doc does not. Well worth a read possibly after you watch the movie.
I also spoke about this on my podcast last week if that’s more your bag! Every week I review one or two different movies or shows on Netflix, Prime or Disney+. Last week I reviewed this movie and The King. It’s a review and a tongue in cheek look at the lighter side of movies and documentaries. Check it out on Spotify and Apple 😁🎧
Check out the rest of my podcast below if you’d like!