Based on a Leo Tolstoy novel, The Cossacks centers around Lukashka (John Gilbert), a young Russian man who has no interest in fighting, unlike the other Cossacks around him. Because of his cheery, peaceful ways, he is ridiculed by the others of his village, even though he is the son of Ivan the Ataman (Ernest Torrence), who is the toughest man there. Finally, even Lukashka's ladylove, Maryana (Renee Adoree), believes him a coward. The people of the village dress him up in an apron and throw grapes at him, and this causes him to snap. Lukashka becomes a fierce fighter, killing any Turks that come his way. Meanwhile, the Czar's messenger, Prince Olenin (Neil Neely) comes to town and decides to take Maryana for his own. But when he makes his way back to the capital with the girl, Lukashka kidnaps her. As for the Prince, he is killed by a pack of Turks. Although the set design and photography for this film were well-done, other aspects miss. George Hill directed most of the picture but Clarence Brown was brought in at the finish to clean it up -- Brown claims the film was a mess by the time he was assigned to work on it. Many of the subtitles are poorly written and are not fair descriptions of the action. One example that is especially -- and unintentionally -- hilarious: Gilbert's character is introduced with "He does not like the smell of blood. He is a chewer of sunflower seeds." Needless to say, Gilbert was unhappy with The Cossacks. While it received, for the most part, positive reviews, hindsight shows that it subtly marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the M-G-M silent star.