I wanted to see this film when it first came out, but then somehow forgot about it for three years.
This is a bit of a weird one, we have a crime drama with a streak of dark humor throughout. The film follows Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) who is a well-to-do snow plower in a remote Norwegian town. Due to the climate, Nils has a fulltime job clearing the same paths over and over, and his kind demeanor and caring attitude win him the citizen of the year award. Life seems pretty good in this sleepy part of the world until tragedy strikes. Nils’ son is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is killed in an embroiled drug conflict. Now, stricken with depression and anxiety Nils must find out what happened to his boy.
How does Nils go about doing this? By punching the people responsible in the face. Nils’ rampage leaves three drug dealers dead in what appears to be just a few short days. Now, you might be worried that this film is another one of those crime revenge flicks, and it certainly starts that way. The somber opening and brutal killings don’t fit the comedic advertisements the film boasted. Audiences may have been wary of the opening because the old revenge-flick just seems so tired anymore, but stay with this one.
We are introduced to the villainous Count who is hell-bent on figuring out what happened to his men. He blames the Albanians (even though the other gang is actually Serbian) and ends up starting a gang war without thinking things through. The Count is funny, and the humor comes through in a manner more akin to classic British comedy with a sharp dour edge. I laughed aloud at several things in the movie that simply weren’t funny in what would be considered a normal sense. Sure, this guy is going to get murdered, but isn’t it kind of funny that all the villains are drinking carrot juice? Isn’t it kind of funny that the lead villain takes bubble baths?
These little moments of oddity (which are all played straight) bring the movie into a fun and often awkward place. The violence is brutal, sudden, and often bracketed by strange moments. The film also hits hard on an emotional level. The death of children, and the traumatic guilt surrounding these killings is done quite well.
Sometimes these moments work perfectly, and in these moments this movie reminds me of In Bruges. However, sometimes they don’t jive that well together and we end up with an imbalanced experience. The acting is excellent throughout, and the cinematography captures the frozen wonderland that is Norway in a beautiful and haunting way. The music adds emotion, but more often it emphasizes the humor. On a technical level this film is fantastic in almost every area. I do wish the guns would have sounded a bit louder—they are almost whisper quiet, which doesn’t fit the otherwise mostly realistic setting. The only real shortness in the film is that the experimental genre mesh doesn’t always work.
I think to truly enjoy this film you have to like both genres enough on their own. If you like gritty crimes dramas and jet-black humor, then you will enjoy this one. If either of those is not in your normal wheelhouse, then I think you will find yourself more irritated than anything else. For me, it was a fun and interesting movie that lacks much replay value, which is not necessarily a horrible thing. Right now the film is on Netflix, and if you’re wanting something a little out of the ordinary give this one a shot. 7/10