Reginald Rose created one of those rare perfect works of drama in 1955 with “Twelve Angry Men.” Sure, it wore its fifties liberal heart on its sleeve, but structurally the scenes fit together like the pieces of an elegantly designed puzzle, it effortlessly generated suspense, and it left audiences—rightly or wrongly—with a sense of national pride. It’s one of those virtually indestructible pieces that can survive, even transcend, bad performances. And over the years it’s certainly suffered quite a few.

That smooths the way for Nikita Makhalkov’s Russian adaptation. It’s not a simple translation of Rose’s screenplay but a reworking that retains the basic plot about a jury’s deliberations about the fate of a young man charged with murdering his father—deliberations that go from an 11-1 vote in favor of conviction to a surprise acquittal—but changes things radically to situate it in the post-Soviet regime and infuses it with a strongly Slavic spirit, in terms of both substance and style. And it’s a lot longer—Stanley Lumet’s 1957 film ran just 95 minutes, and this one clocks in at 159. But it still works.

In Rose’s version, the accused was a Hispanic youth about whom nothing was known besides the fact that he was accused of killing his father with a switchblade; and the entire running-time, save for a brief prologue and epilogue, is taken up by the jury room debate in which the lone holdout for acquittal eventually persuades all eleven others to vote not guilty. The script was an expression of the easily humanistic philosophy of the day, according to which it was inevitable that reason and flint-solid American integrity could overcome bigotry, apathy and mindless passion. And, of course, it celebrated the Anglo-American system of justice.

Here, the defendant is a Chechen youngster accused of stabbing his adopted father, a former army officer with whom he was living in Moscow, to death in a quarrel. The debate over his guilt is periodically interrupted by scenes of his childhood in his war-torn homeland, including the deaths of his parents at the hands of Russian troops. One knows a great deal more about the boy’s background than one did in the American version.

The original, moreover, played on the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tiny, hot jury room. In this adaptation, the men are deployed in the large gymnasium of a school, where they can stride about and engage in flamboyant gestures (and where a stray sparrow can fly around, becoming a thirteenth character). The effect is rather like the relatively cramped street of a sagebrush town in a fifties Hollywood western transformed ino the football-field sized thoroughfares of a Sergio Leone spaghetti horse opera.

And though one can certainly perceive the lineaments of Rose’s characters in many of those here, the changes are substantial. So while the holdout played by Henry Fonda was stoic and certain, and we knew nothing about his past, his Russian counterpart played by Sergey Makovetsky gets the opportunity to present an elaborate backstory and is much less straightforwardly heroic. And the Jack Klugman character who expertly discusses the proper method of using a switchblade becomes a doctor from the Caucacus who shows the expertise of people from that region with knives of a different sort.

And that, along with the whole Chechen subtext, is part of a wholesale Russianization of the story, which translates the original’s bigotry into present-day, post-Soviet terms and does a switch at the end that offers an ironic comment on the endemic corruption of today’s Putin regime. The result isn’t the same sort of panegyric to the justice system that the original was—quite the opposite, in fact. And it isn’t just the content, but the style, that’s different: the Lumet film certainly gave its actors—especially Ed Begley and Lee J. Cobb—the opportunity to break loose. But the operatic extravagance of the performances here has a distinctly Slavic flavor, and is far more pervasive.

“12” thus confirms the genius of Rose’s fifties dramatic contraption. His plot may be nothing more than what Pauline Kael once called the premise of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”—a rather dumb, but in a way brilliant, gimmick with a perennial audience appeal. But it’s still irresistible, and Mikhalkov’s take on it isn’t just sufficiently distinctive to be worth seeing as a curiosity; it’s as genuine a reflection of the ethos of today’s Russia as Lumet’s picture was of the spirit of 1950s America.