Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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JAKOB OFENBRO, PÅL SVERRE HAGEN, ANDERS BAASMO CHRISTIANSEN IN IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE

Dead men dropping

In Order of Disappearance is a good looking, brisk, well made gangster movie set in the far north of Norway. It's a dark comedy, self-mocking, shamelessly bloody, and violent, in which the mistaken killing of an innocent young man leads to a series of revenge murders by his father that touch off war between rival drug gangs. The filmmakers point to their own self-conscious machinery by shifting to a dark screen after each killing or series of them and showing, under crosses or other appropriate symbols, the given names and gang-style nicknames of the deceased. Watch the whole well-oiled process with the callous indifference of wanton boys and you will have a rollicking good time; adopt a pose of pious disapproval and you will suffer grievously. Do not take the gunshots or spattering blood seriously or expect to get involved. Enjoy the nice cinematography, the cool settings, colorful characters - and panorama of defective judgment: after all, the Norwegian title, "Kraftidioten," simply means "big morons."

Nils Dickman (Stellen Skarsgård) is a big, simple, honest man, a Swedish immigrant working in Norway who drives a giant snowplow to keep the country roads clear in his region. He's just been honored as Citizen of the Year by the local municipality, and asked by a district party leader to run for office. When his grown son Ingvar (Aron Eskeland) is murdered by a gang, mistaking him for his friend Finn (Tobias Santelmann), and making it look like a drug overdose, Nils turns to vengeance, killing three men in a row, and that leads to more deaths, and then more, and more.

There are two gangs. The Norwegian one is rather effete. Several of its top henchmen are secretly having a gay affair. The leader, Ole Forsby (Pål Sverre Hagen, who played Thor Heyerdahl in Kon Tiki) is a Eurotrash dandy, son of a mobster, known as Greven - "the Count." He's a tall, skinny young man with little authority but a tendency to have tantrums. Like his father he runs a big bakery as cover. He's a vegan who wears tight suits and a ponytail and lives in a big, spare, ridiculously stylish house and is driven about in​ a fabulously exotic and costly silver Fisker Karma​ electric luxury sedan​​. We see a lot of the Count. We also see a lot of Nils Dickman barging around in long yellow snow-proof pants or barreling cross country in his great snowplow. It serves the purpose of the wood-grinder in the Coen brothers' Fargo, an earlier study of brutal idiocy in snow country that may come to mind here.

But the focus of director Hans Peter Morland (in his fourth collaboration with Skarsgård) and Danish writer Kim Fupz Aakeson is on the brisk succession of killings. There are at least six in the first forty minutes, getting things swiftly under way. First I​ng​var, Nils' son, dies and in revenge Nils kills three of the Count's men. Wanting to get their boss, he goes to seek advice from his estranged brother, E​g​il (Peter Andersson), formerly himself a criminal, known at "Wingman​.​" Wingman advises Nils that to kill the Count he must hire an assassin, "the Chinese" or Kineseren - Takeshi Claus Nielsen (David Sakurai). Paid in advance, "the Chinese" gives away his assignment, hoping to get bought off, but is offed by the Count instead. "The Chinese" turns out to have been a doofus.

The Count is too amusing a character to disappear, and lingers on until a big outdoor battle takes place between the Norwegians and a rival gang of Serbians headed by an old guy known as "Papa" (soulful veteran German actor Bruno Ganz). They are older and wiser and tougher types, lonely outsiders in a foreign land; and Papa's HQ is a total contrast to the Count's, a dark sprawling warehouse full of rugs and old furniture. These excellent pads, including Wingman's, are the fruits of Jorgen Stangebye Larsen’s choice production design.

Fathers and sons and husbands and wives are woven through all the action with playful ingenuity. Nils' wife Gudrun (Hildegard Riise) believe's the cops' story that their son was a drug addict, and this causes an irretrievable rift between her and Nils. The Count is in the midst of a testy divorce and is regularly embarrassed by his ex-wife Marit (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), with whom he battles for custody of his son​ Rune​ (played by director Moland's son Jack), a blond schoolboy who turns out to be sweet and curious when Nils spends time with him toward the end. Wingman has trouble with his exotic wife ​(​Huyen Huynh) too. W​e hear about the Count's father, his gangster predecessor​; ​Wingman once worked for him. When Nils' hitman deal is going awry, the Count is having Miroslav Popović (Adil Halitaj) killed and hung out on a milestone as a warning; Miroslav is the beloved son of the Serbian gang leader, Papa. Nils then kidnap's the Count's boy, Rune, and briefly becomes a father figure for him.​ "Have you heard of the Stockholm Syndrome"? Rune asks Nils as they cuddle at bedtime.

There is a sense of great tidiness in the rapidly falling corpses, though at the end the film must resort to a group list when the shootout leads to nine deceased, four Serbs and five Norwegians. The low-ranking henchmen are the most ironic commentators of the story. There is a notable Tarantinoesque conversation when one of the ​henchman sent to capture Miroslav explains ​to the other ​that the world is divided between "sunshine and welfare." The countries with lousy climates, like Norway, have good social services. ​In those that are pretty and warm, like Italy, Portugal, or California, you're on your own. ​A Serbian gangster ​observes​ that Norwegian prisons provide every comfort, good food, dental care, and no rapes. If everybody left alive when the last skirmish ends, including Nils, goes to a Norwegian jail, we need not worry that they'll suffer.

Nils is a great tole for Skarsgård: even if his behavior may seem extreme, his six-foot-three-inch frame fills the snow overalls with authority and his stony face embodies the avenging Norseman's relentless intent to perfection.

What Peter Debruge, in his excellent Variety review, calls the " beautifully fatalistic electric-guitar score," has a mocking echo-of-doom effect ​reminiscent of​ Neil Young's haunting soundtrack for Jarmusch's Dead Man. It moves things along beautifully. I confess I wish this film, which is so much fun from minute to minute, is so handsomely crafted and has so many interesting characters and attractive actors, had been a bit more serious, in the manner, say, of Jean-Pierre Melville, and had a dashing professional villain, a Delon or Belmondo type, ​somewhere​. But the exotic, chilly setting counts for extra points: it enhances everything. The weather, and the righteous anger, are both pretty serious, after all.

Jakob Ofenbro and Anders Baasmo Christiansen play the secretly gay henchmen who share an intense kiss. For a list of all the corpses you'll need to watch the film and match names up on a Cast list.

In Order of Disappearance/Kraftidioten, 116 mins., in Norwegian, debuted at the Berlinale in Feb. 2014 and opened theatrically in 16 countries that year after over two dozen showings at international festivals. Released by Magnolia Pictures, it opens in NYC 26 Aug. 2016 (at Landmark Sunshine) and in San Francisco (Landmark’s Opera Plaza & Shattuck Cinemas) 2 Sept. 2016.

Now (May 2017) on Netflix, both DVD and streaming.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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