Freedom is the Key

Directed by

Rurik Pankavuranov

Produced by

Pankavuranov Pictures
Historica et Scientia Pictures

Written by

Terentiy Pankavuranov
Timofey Ulyanov

Release date

July 26, 2006


Lev Arigov
Gavrina Kumilyova
Ravil Yanenko
Vyacheslav Klimov
Terentiy Murov
Viktoriya Vegova
Irina Adzhitekova
Arya Nukova
Hafimwahlid Talnaev


m40.5 million

Box office



135 minutes


Pankavuranov Pictures

Freedom is the Key is a 2006 Margovyan action-comedy adventure film produced by Pankavuranov Pictures and distributed by Margovyan National Pictures. It is the sequel to the 2001 award-winning film Revenge is the Answer, which was based on the 1994 Arbatskaya State University Shootout, and is the second film in the Trilogy of Revenge. The film was written by Terentiy Pankavuranov and Timofey Ulyanov, directed by Rurik Pankavuranov, and stars Lev Arigov, Gavrina Kumilyova, Ravil Yanenko, Vyacheslav Klimov, Terentiy Murov, Viktoriya Vegova, Irina Adzhitekova, Arya Nukova, and Hafimwahlid Talnaev, with Orental Gibitov, Rafael dela Cruz, Sara Nashi, and Gennady Elemat appearing in cameo roles. The film departs from actual history in that instead of being acquitted for the shooting, Timofey Ulyanov has fled Margovya and now has to survive in a dangerous world with his newfound skills with the gun. A third and final film, Truth is the Savior, was released December 5, 2011.


Five years after the Arbatskaya State University Shootout that left over 700 people dead, Timofey Ulyanov (Lev Arigov) has fled Margovya with his new girlfriend Yelena Ignatiyeva (Gavrina Kumilyova), the woman who "doesn't give a damn" about Timofey's role in the shootout. They now live in Rio de Janeiro's Rocinha favela under assumed names. Timofey works as a cargo loader at the Port of Rio de Janeiro by day, and as a criminal "problem-solver" by night, while Yelena is a waitress at a popular bar in the favela.

One night, Timofey gets the order to kill João Lula Garibaldi (cameo by Rafael dela Cruz), a politician that has pissed off the crime lords in both Rocinha and nearby Sao Conrado. However, Garibaldi knows that his life is now in danger, so he surrounds himself with the best policemen the Rio de Janeiro police can offer. Timofey is forced to call off the hit after seeing the number of police guarding the politician. While walking back to his apartment, Timofey sees a man being beaten to death by a pack of drug-addled youths. After failing to scare them off by firing his gun, he challenges the leader of the gang to a one-on-one fistfight, which he wins easily because the youth's reflexes had been dulled by chronic drug abuse. After the rest of the druggies flee the scene, the man thanks Timofey for saving him and tells him that a great reward will be waiting for him when he meets him at the port docks tomorrow. When Timofey tells Yelena about the deal, she cautions him to remain vigilant, as it could a trap set by Margovyan authorities to capture him.

Timofey meets Gercino Peixoto (Gennady Elemat), the man he saved last night, at the port docks in the morning, just as planned. Peixoto reveals that he is actually a recruiter for a mercenary group that has just received a lucrative contract to train the Muluwheyo Army, which has just come out of a devastating war with far-left members of SWANU from neighboring Namibia. Timofey agrees to consider the offer, but only if he can take Yelena with him. Peixoto makes no promises, but he tells Timofey that he will have an answer for that question by evening.

Back in Rocinha, a burly man is causing trouble in Yelena's bar. When she tries to calm him down, he basically insults her womanhood and dares her to lay a finger on him. Yelena successfully plays the scared-girl stereotype before suddenly putting the man in a headlock from which she can snap his neck with just a single twitch of her muscle. Suddenly, another woman (cameo by Zarya Yarinich) tells Yelena to let go of the big guy and prepare for a trip abroad, as she had just proven herself to the same mercenary organization that hired Timofey.

Timofey and Yelena board a Transbrasil flight from Rio to Port Corfe, Muluwheyo. There, they are met by two more mercenaries, Selong Mkesi (Terentiy Murov) and Jaroslaw Veczynski (Vyacheslav Klimov). During the drive to the capital, they reveal why they accepted the offer of the mercenaries: Veczynski left the Polish Land Forces after the fall of communism and became a gun-for-hire, and Mkesi was a former member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe before he left the organization when it was about to be integrated into South Africa's forces. Basically, they took the job because the only way they knew to make money was to kill for it. Arriving at the National Military College in Muluwheyo City, Veczynski introduce the two new arrivals to Field Marshal Anders Bohringros N'ktarvi (Ravil Yanenko), the commander of the Muluwheyo Army. Timofey is hesitant to shake N'ktarvi's hand because the field marshal looks very much like one of his mortal enemies, Ivan "Big Johnny" Yigantev.

N'ktarvi makes a very brief introduction of himself and immediately assigns Timofey and Yelena to a training battalion in Keizerberg. However, before he sends the mercenaries off, he orders them fitted with new combat and dress uniforms to better integrate them with the soldiers. Timofey and Yelena are both given the assimilated rank of major, and Timofey likes the way he looks in a dress uniform. The soldiers are at most open to being trained by mercenaries, although there is some resentment from the older soldiers and the veterans of the war with SWANU at the fact that their own commanders don't think that they are capable of training the next generation of soldiers.

Three weeks after beginning the soldiers' training, the mercenary trainers get their first taste of African-style combat when Marshal N'ktarvi tells them that the United Republic's consulate in Point Portugal had been occupied by SWANU fighters and its staff taken hostage. The fighters threaten to kill the staff if their leaders were not immediately released by the government, which it is understandably not willing to do. N'ktarvi wants his mercenary trainers to retake the consulate and show his soldiers how to execute a successful counterterrorist mission. Despite both Mkesi and Veczynski having more experience in Africa, they name Timofey as their leader, because they have heard of what he had done in Margovya, which made the news even in Muluwheyo. Four mercenaries (Timofey, Yelena, Jaroslaw, and Selong) sneak into the consulate's back door, where the SWANU fighters have neglected to post an armed guard. They take down the SWANU fighters with ease, and Selong even notes that the fighters appear to be youngsters, the "dregs" of SWANU's military arm. The consul, Hiram Joachim Gibson (cameo by Orental Gibitov), wants to award the United Republic's highest honors on the mercenaries, but Timofey politely refuses for the group. Selong looks to disagree, but Jaroslaw shuts him up.

The mercenaries are given another job by N'ktarvi, who wants them to recover three female aid volunteers kidnapped by SWANU forces during a raid in the border province of Far South Province. Timofey, Yelena, Jaroslaw, and Selong are airlifted to a position near the raiders' suspected camp, and are given last-minute instructions to rescue the girls as quietly as possible, causing as little casualties as possible. It is a hard task, but the mercenaries successfully pull off the rescue, with all three girls (Viktoriya Vegova, Irina Adzhitekova, and Arya Nukova) are unharmed by the ordeal. While waiting for their airlift back to the capital, Timofey develops an attraction to Natalie Traynor (Nukova), one of the three girls rescued, because she bears an uncanny resemblance to his former girlfriend, Ekaterina Lukoreva.

Three days after successfully rescuing the three girls from SWANU, Marshal N'ktarvi reveals that he has uncovered, through most secret means, the location of a convoy of the SWANU rebels' commanders that will take them to an unknown location. N'ktarvi firmly believes that this will be his last chance to eliminate SWANU's presence in Muluwheyo, and he assigns his best mercenaries on the job with orders to eliminate everyone in the convoy, "no exceptions." All of the mercenaries participate in the attack, and most of the vehicles and personnel in the convoy are destroyed and killed. Suddenly, the mercenaries discover a Japanese man amid the carnage, and they bring him to Timofey. The Japanese reveals himself to be Hirofuto Chosokabe (cameo by Sara Nashi), the local commander of the UN forces deployed to Muluwheyo to keep the peace. At the same time, the mercenaries' radios come alive with threats from the Muluwheyo Army to stand down and surrender. Timofey realizes that N'ktarvi has betrayed them all and orders the mercenaries to make a stand. In the ensuing firefight, most of the mercenaries are killed, and only Timofey, Yelena, Jaroslaw, and Selong survive. Timofey calls Peixoto through a captured satellite phone and tells him that N'ktarvi has betrayed his mercenaries and killed them all. Peixoto tells Timofey to kill the field marshal, as there will be a large bonus waiting for them if they accomplish that task.

The four end up in an Ovambo village, where they are initially greeted with hostility, but after Selong translates to the villagers' leader that they have a common enemy (N'ktarvi), the Ovambo leader agrees to help the mercenaries in their fight against the treacherous field marshal, whom the Ovambo refer to as "the Crusher of Skulls." Meanwhile, back in Muluwheyo City, N'ktarvi meets with Hassan Ghelassie (Hafimwahlid Talnaev), a Moroccan "independent defense coordinator" who sells high-end weapons and military technology to the field marshal at reduced cost. Ghelassie reveals that four mercenaries managed to escape N'ktarvi's ambush, and to make it worse, it is the four best mercenaries that have escaped. N'ktarvi orders Ghelassie to find the four at all costs, and to bring them to him as soon as possible.

The Ovambo village where the mercenaries are hiding is visited by Muluwheyo soldiers looking for a quick shakedown. One of the Ovambo men make the mistake of not paying the soldiers, and the situation quickly escalates when the soldiers shoot the man, and the mercenaries shoot back to defend the other villagers. Selong is hit by a bullet to the abdomen, and once the surviving Muluwheyan soldiers retreat, Timofey extracts the bullet with his bare hands, which elicits violent reactions from the men. He and Jaroslaw patch up the South African as best as they can, but they know that he won't survive without a proper doctor. Timofey suddenly gets a bright idea and has Jaroslaw and Yelena commandeer one of the vehicles abandoned by the soldiers, and he uses it to drive the four of them right into Muluwheyo City, reasoning that N'ktarvi "wouldn't think to look for us in his own turf." Timofey knocks at Natalie Traynor's door, whom he remembers to be a doctor. Natalie is both shocked and scared, asking Timofey to consider her "when Marshal N'ktarvi comes knocking himself," but she eventually allows them into her apartment and treats Selong's wounds.

Wanted posters for the four mercenaries are posted all over Muluwheyo, with Yelena complaining that they can't get her nose right. Three days after the wanted posters are put up, Timofey gets a not very good idea to enrage N'ktarvi by staging an attack right at the heart of his country. Yelena and Jaroslaw are not very enthusiastic about Timofey's plan, but he eventually convinces them to come with him to Port Smith, and steal a patrol boat. In Port Smith, the three manage to board the patrol boat MNV Teeth disguised as officials on an unannounced tour of the Navy. Timofey uses the Teeth's Bofors cannon to disable the other ships in the port. The MNV Tony Smith, the Muluwheyo Navy's biggest vessel, gives chase, but the mercenaries manage to disable it by a very lucky shot to the engine room. However, during sunrise, the Teeth is attacked by a Mil Mi-24 "Hind" attack helicopter piloted by Ghelassie himself. Jaroslaw is injured when Ghelassie makes a strafing run on the ship's bridge. Yelena informs Timofey that the Bofors cannon has only one round remaining, and that he should make the shot count. Timofey waits for Ghelassie to make another strafing run, and then when the Hind is directly aligned with the gun, he fires. Ghelassie and his Hind to into the water in a fireball.

Timofey and Yelena beach the Teeth in Coastal Province and haul the injured Jaroslaw back to Natalie's apartment. Their attack had the intended effect of making N'ktarvi more paranoid, especially now that his "independent defense coordinator" is dead, but what they didn't count on was the lifting of the curfew and the reduction of Army patrols in the capital. Timofey decides that N'ktarvi is now waiting for them to make their move on him, and he decides to do just that.

Timofey and Yelena attack N'ktarvi's mansion outside the capital and take down his guards. However, before the final confrontation, Yelena is injured, and Timofey goes on alone. He enters N'ktarvi's private quarters to find him in his dress uniform, festooned with medals on his chest. N'ktarvi taunts Timofey by saying that he cannot even kill a man quickly and immediately, and that when the police arrive at his mansion, they will find a wanted man pointing a pistol at the country's field marshal and the son of the president. Timofey merely replies in the affirmative, and even calls N'ktarvi "Big Johnny" before shooting him in the head. Timofey collects Yelena and escapes the mansion with her just before the authorities arrive. Timofey calls Peixoto and tells him that the job is done. Peixoto tells him that fifty million dollars have just arrived in a bank account in Muluwheyo.

A package sent by an anonymous person arrives on House of Commons Speaker Athoney Savimbi's (Rufus T'fela Z'maltah) desk, which outlines Anders N'ktarvi's plot to use the threat of both SWANU and rogue mercenaries to put the country in a state of martial law before eventually deposing his father, President Nicklaus Rohlihlala N'ktarvi in a coup. Anders N'ktarvi's actions are eventually determined to be best kept secret, and President N'ktarvi signs presidential pardons for the four remaining mercenaries, and they take up residence in Diogo Cao, home of many affluent Muluwheyans.


Award-winning Muluwheyan actor Rufus T'fela Z'maltah also has a cameo appearance as Prime Minister Athoney Savimbi (then the Speaker of the Muluwheyo House of Commons).



When Revenge is the Answer was released in 2001, almost everyone involved in the project did not expect that it would spawn a sequel. "The film was based on real events," director Rurik Pankavuranov told Entertainment Margovya immediately after the film's announcement. "Those events had a firm conclusion, and that was the way that it should be." However, when 1,000,000 Margovyans signed a petition for a sequel to Revenge is the Answer, Pankavuranov felt that he "had no choice but to acquiese to their demands." Most of the original creative team of Revenge is the Answer was called back to help create the sequel. Rurik's brother, Terentiy, created a draft in which Timofey Ulyanov will be involved in an intense fight for his life against both the Margovyan authorities seeking to capture him and the families of the three bullies he murdered, which turn out to be influential members of the Margovyan Mafia. The studio was hesitant to accept this script as it had a dark tone that would make it grind against the cheerful comedies that it would compete with in its summer 2006 planned release date. The idea that Timofey's bullies are scions of influential Mafiya families will be used in the second sequel Truth is the Savior, but in the meantime Pankavuranov junked the first script and set about writing another.

While working on the sequel's script, which had the working title of "The Return of Timofey Ulyanov" at the time, Pankavuranov was visited in the family hacienda in Banananovich by Timofey Ulyanov himself, who came to suggest many of the elements that would eventually make it to the final script of the movie. Ulyanov suggested the twist that the Ulyanov character's acquittal at the end of the first movie was actually just a delusion created after he learned of his girlfriend's suicide, the development of the romance between the Ulyanov character and Yelena, the girl at the end of the first movie who "didn't give a damn about what Tim did", the concept that the main villain of the movie be a lookalike of one of Timofey's former bullies, and that the film be set in Muluwheyo, which had just come out of a war with Namibian SWANU rebels that year. When Ulyanov learned that Gennady Elemat had accepted a role in the movie, he suggested the character of Gercino Peixoto, the Ulyanov character's main contact with the mercenary group that had been hired to train the soldiers in Muluwheyo. Also, when Ravil Yanenko agreed to appear in the movie, Ulyanov had him cast as Field Marshal Anders Bohringros N'ktarvi, who was assassinated in his mansion outside Muluwheyo City in 1999.

Ulyanov also wrote the script so that many of the supporting characters like Selong Mkesi and Jaroslaw Veczynski would die one by one, until only the Ulyanov character was left to face N'ktarvi. This did not go well with test audiences, however, so Pankavuranov decided to make the movie more light-hearted and funny, "about as funny and light-hearted as you can make a war story," he said on The Conrada Cortesova Show: Late Night Edition. This version was more well-received, and was the version that made it to theaters.


Rurik Pankavuranov and Timofey Ulyanov claimed that they were "unsure" of the chances of Revenge is the Answer's main cast agreeing on a sequel to what was supposed to have been a one-shot movie. Pankavuranov was rumored to have considered casting Ravil Yanenko, who immediately accepted the offer to appear in the sequel, as the Ulyanov character if ever Lev Arigov declined to appear. Fortunately, Arigov accepted the offer, and Pankavuranov told The Svetlana Lanuva Show in 2005 that with the main star back in the fold, "filming is ready to commence." Gavrina Kumilyova, who had a brief cameo appearance at the end of Revenge as the girl who lifted up the Ulyanov character's spirits, agreed to return to the now-expanded role for only a fifteen-percent increase to the pay she received for the first movie.

When Pankavuranov Pictures agreed to increase the budget for Freedom is the Key, the Pankavuranov brothers saw an opportunity to make a star-studded film, and many famous Margovyan actors and actresses were approached. In what was the biggest filming contract signed in Margovya in 2005, Pankavuranov Pictures signed the trio of Arya Nukova, Irina Adzhitekova, and Viktoriya Vegova to the movie for an estimated m33 million margots each. Nukova was reportedly not very eager to play in the movie, but when she read the script that now involved the Ulyanov character developing an attraction to her character, her interest picked up and she became more enthusiastic with her role during filming. "It's a very interesting story between my character and Lev's," she told The Early Bird. "He sees a woman who looks very much like the woman that he loved and lost during the most turbulent period of his life, and I'd just like to see what would happen." Ravil Yanenko was also happy to hear that he had been cast, once again, as Ulyanov's nemesis. "Lev and I are friends in real life," he told Entertainment Margovya in a 2005 interview, "but the fans love the antagonism that's developed between our characters so much that it's going to be carried into a new person."

Gennady Elemat was originally planned to play a much larger role in the movie, but when he announced his intentions to run for the presidency, Pankavuranov and Ulyanov were forced to remove parts of the script that would involve Elemat's character heavily and keeping his physical appearances in the final film to a minimum, and he agreed to record the lines that would end up being used during Timofey's call to Brazil. "I'm actually a little saddened by this development," he said on The Conrada Cortesova Show. "I've seen Terentiy's script, and my character's potential was very great. I just hope we can use him again another time."


Principal photography for Freedom began on June 15, 2005, in Arbatskaya City, Arbatskaya, which stood in for Rocinha, although aerial and external shots of the real Rocinha favela were also used. Filming moved to Carbombya, which stood in for Muluwheyo, on July 1, and continued for five weeks. Finally, on August 7, filming returned to Margovya, specifically Svolochyville, Opula, for one week of shooting the port scenes. Principal photography was wrapped up on August 13.


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