Directed by: Hans Petter Moland
Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, Bruno Ganz, Kristofer Hivju, Birgitte Hjort
Originally titled Kraftidioten, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland's In Order of Disappearance is the latest entry in a genre that's come to be affectionately known as Nordic Noir.
Skarsgard returns to his native Scandinavia to play Nils Dickman, an elderly snow-plough operator based in a remote part of Norway. When Nils' son is innocently caught up in the double-crossing of a violent drug gang, the young man is murdered, his body filled with heroin to make it look like he suffered an overdose. Nils smells a rat though, and begins to investigate, leading him down a bloody, and snowbound, path of revenge.
A few years ago the Western world became captivated with Scandinavian literature, and it seems in the past few years that merely possessing a surname that ends in "sson" is a guarantee of a bestseller. This obsession quickly translated to film and TV, giving unprecedented exposure to movies and TV shows from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, territories that had previously received attention from only the most ardent of cinephiles and gogglebox explorers. Now it seems the well may be running dry, or in this case, freezing over.
In Order of Disappearance suffers from many of the issues of this year's other breakout Scandinavian hit, Sweden's The 100 Year Old Man. Like that movie, it's schizophrenic in tone, struggles to settle into its narrative, and feels bloated, despite a relatively economic running time by today's standards.
For roughly 20 minutes, Moland's film plays it completely straight, with Skarsgard giving a gripping performance, reminiscent of George C Scott in Paul Schrader's revenge drama Hardcore. Like a geriatric Christina Lindberg, he knocks off his foes one by one, working his way up the chain of command to ultimately take down the leader of the drugs cartel. It's when we're introduced to just such a figure, the lanky Geir, that the movie completely changes tone, morphing into the sort of gormless gangster comedy we associate more with British cinema than its Nordic counterpart.
Some of the humour works in that black comedy against a snowy white background Scandinavian way (a kidnapped child claiming to be overcome by Stockholm syndrome, a parachutist chewed up in a snow plough's grinding gears), but most is infantile (constant mockery of the surname Dickman) and overplayed (flashing the names of victims, accompanied by a symbol of their religious background, on screen each time they're snuffed out grows tiresome quickly).
Remove the comedy and In Order of Disappearance could have been a satisfying "grym film", but sadly it's just the latest crime caper to fall somewhere below Tarantino and somewhere above Guy Ritchie.
By Eric Hillis