Category Archives: 2010s

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

*. Hm. This movie is a prequel to the two previous Insidious movies, and yet it’s Chapter 3. Does that make sense? Shouldn’t it be Insidious: Prologue?
*. Whatever you want to call it, this third instalment in the franchise delivers, yes, more of the same. We’ve moved on from the unhappy Lambert family but we still have the maternal psychic Elise (Lin Shaye), who was killed at the end of Chapter 2 in a manner that is foreshadowed in this film. And we have the two bumbling spook hunters Tucker and Specs (the latter played by Leigh Whannell, who also wrote and directed). So the gang’s all here.
*. I’d like to say I enjoyed this more, but really it’s just a retread of the other films. The final act plays out in an identical manner, with Elise entering the Further to rescue some innocent victim from a demon. How many times can they keep going back to the same well? Given all the repetition I didn’t come away feeling much of anything.
*. Part of the problem might be with the fact that this is a prequel, and hence we aren’t that worried about anything bad happening to Elise or her assistants. The sense that there’s nothing much at risk also allows the film to take a more comic tone, which is usually a sign that a horror franchise has passed its expiry date.
*. This is too bad. Most of the movie was decent enough. There’s an over-reliance on jump scares, but I was finally warming to the trio of paranormal investigators. I’m not sure they’d be the first people I’d call if I needed help getting rid of ghosts or demons, but they seem nice.
*. There did, however, seem to be something incomplete about the whole thing. Characters are introduced (Quinn’s gal pal and the boy next door who is in love with her) but then dropped without any explanation. There’s no back story for the demon (The Man Who Can’t Breathe) explaining who he is or what his motives are. One supposes we’ll be filled in at some later date (that is, in a sequel), but leaving such a matter up in the air felt lazy.
*. The critical response was lukewarm. Box office, however, was spectacular again (though I believe this was the poorest performing instalment in the franchise). What more can you say? Creatively Chapter 3 gave me the feeling that the concept was thoroughly played out, but of course that has never stopped a Hollywood money train from rolling.

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

*. I was lukewarm to Insidious, a movie that I’d so completely forgotten by the time I got around to watching Chapter 2 I had to go back to my notes to refresh my memory as to what it had been about.
*. The machinery of this film is more of the same, as you’d expect with the return of writer Leigh Whannell (who also plays the paranormal investigator Specs) and director James Wan. The scary stuff plays out predictably. A tin can telephone is introduced in the early going that you can be sure is going to come into play later. It is. Meanwhile, a piano plays by itself. Children’s toys turn on by themselves. Rocking horses rock by themselves. People wander through spooky old mansions, the only illumination coming from their flashlights. A chandelier nearly falls on someone. Ghostly figures are seen.
*. We are also exploring the same psychic geography as the first film, a realm of the dead known as the Further. I was disappointed, however, to see that the Lipstick-Face Demon had gone missing, to be replaced by a Bride in Black who seems to have wandered off the set of American Horror Story. This new demon is a clichéd figure, only slightly redeemed by a back story that might have been torn from a Grade Z giallo.
*. If I was lukewarm to Insidious I’d rate my response to Chapter 2 as being a little cooler. It’s really not very scary. They throw in some nonsense about the ghosts playing Boggle with another medium, and the final act, while adequately wrapping things up, goes on far too long. But I doubt anyone really cared.
*. Because the box office. The box office! The film grossed over $160 million worldwide against a budget of $5 million. For a movie that really has nothing much to recommend it at all. I find this hard to understand. I know that a bad movie, even a terrible movie, can become a hit if it somehow manages to hit the zeitgeist. As William Goldman put it, when it comes to predicting winners in this business nobody knows anything. But I don’t understand how a movie that is neither good nor bad, and which is in no way original or different from any one of a dozen other films released around the same time, can have this kind of success.
*. Whatever the explanation, only one conclusion could be drawn: Forward the franchise!

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

*. I liked Happy Death Day. It didn’t make me want a sequel though. I thought it was driven by an idea that didn’t need any further development. Why was Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) having to relive the day of her death over and over again? I don’t remember that being a question I ever bothered asking myself.
*. Well, if you were looking for an explanation you’ll get something along those lines here. Apparently it has to do with a demographically diverse trio of nerdy lab rats performing a physics experiment that opens different channels in the multiverse. No, it does not make sense. None at all. There’s no point even trying to figure it out. But it’s what we’re given.
*. One thing this means is that Happy Death Day 2U is more a science fiction film than a thriller. And, as it turns out, more a romantic comedy than a thriller as well. Or, as Mark Kermode put it, instead of Groundhog Day meets Scream it’s Revenge of the Nerds meets Back to the Future (or actually Back to the Future Part II, but who’s counting?).
*. Which is all to the good, I think. Writer-director Christopher Landon wasn’t interested in just doing the same thing all over again (though that would be kind of fitting, given the premise). Instead he really opened the idea up and took it in a new direction.
*. It even started out winning me over, and I was entirely on board with it through the first act (though they missed an easy trick by not developing the scene where Ryan is stuck in a crowd of college kids wearing the killer’s baby mask). Then, I’m sorry to say, the wheels fell off. The entire middle part of the movie gets bogged down in schmaltz as Tree has to decide whether to stay in a new timeline where her mother is still alive or go back to the one where her mother is dead so that she can be with her boyfriend. Her mother helps her out with lines like this: “Well, we all have to make hard choices, Tree. That’s life. And sometimes the past is pulling us in one direction and the future is calling us somewhere new.”
*. All of a sudden a fun game of Time-Travel Twister turns into a rollercoaster of eye rolls. Sentiment has no place in a movie like this. The final act does take us through a couple of extra twists that aren’t bad, but getting there is a chore and the resolution, which has to do with Tree and her trio of nerds finding the right algorithm, is just thrown at us at the end. Of course every time-travel movie involves us in the same paradoxes, but nothing interesting is done with that material here. The time machine is just a prop or McGuffin.

*. I wish I could say I liked this more. And to be fair it’s not a bad movie. But it ends up being all over the place, and a mid-credit scene at the end doesn’t bode well for where they may be going with a third instalment. One feels the need for more direction when entering the multiverse.
*. I don’t want to end on a down note so I’ll conclude with a shout out to the cheerleader dressed as the Bayfield Baby at the basketball game. He (or she) is only on screen for a couple of seconds, but still manages to make a great impression by leading the crowd with what I take is their signature move of drinking from a giant milk bottle as though they’re chugging a beer (or maybe performing a blowjob). That was an inspired performance that I don’t remember seeing anywhere in the first film and it got my biggest laugh. Go Baby!

American Animals (2018)

*. A group of young men try to steal some expensive books from a university library. Why? That is the question.
*. The answer is that there’s not much of an answer. Spencer (Barry Keoghan) is the most mysterious. He wants to experience life intensely. He wants to suffer for his art. He wants to do something, be something. He’s bored. Take your pick from the thin pickings.
*. One of the quirks of American Animals is that it dramatizes the crime and the events leading up to it but intercuts interviews with the actual figures involved (writer-director Bart Layton’s previous film was a documentary). Trying to understand Spencer I found myself focusing on his interview segments. This may be in part because I really don’t like focusing on Barry Keoghan. I don’t think I like this actor much. He was very unlikeable in The Killing of a Sacred Deer but I put that down to the part and the film’s director. Yorgos Lanthimos doesn’t want you to like his actors. But I find Keoghan just as unlikeable here, despite the attempt to establish some sympathy for his character.
*. And it’s not just a question of liking or not liking him. I feel like I don’t get any insight into Spencer, or understand his motivations at all.
*. Warren (Evan Peters) is the easiest member of the gang to come to grips with. He’s from the a rougher neighbourhood, for starters. He’s phony, and slightly psychopathic. A young man, not very bright but somewhat charismatic, full of himself and on the make. When we see the real Warren he’s a familiar face.
*. I am baffled by the other two burglars. How they thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Perhaps they all saw themselves as the star of the movie and were as surprised as anyone at being relegated to supporting roles, albeit with the same 7-year sentence at the end.
*. Naturally enough, they seem to have been thinking in terms of a heist picture. The go to Blockbuster to do research, watching The Killing for tips. Their planning sessions mimic, pointlessly, Reservoir Dogs. Warren imagines the end of their story being like the fantasy ending of The Shawshank Redemption (something else that dishonest movie has to answer for). The film does not, however, invoke its two closest analogs: The Bling Ring and the Ocean’s movies of Steven Soderbergh.
*. I’ll start with Soderbergh. As I’ve said before, Soderbergh is maybe the slickest director around, and American Animals imitates that slickness with nearly every shot. It’s a movie that throws every visual trick in the book at you. Part of the title sequence, for example, comes at us, for no reason at all, upside-down. This trickiness doesn’t play in the chaotic, clashing manner of an Oliver Stone, however, but with Soderbergh’s trademark smoothness. We shift from different points of view using all sorts of graceful elisions and sleight-of-hand. Even when the trick makes itself obvious — switching to black-and-white, using split screens, rewinding the film, and introducing impossible characters into scenes — nothing ever seems out of place. Throw in a retro soundtrack of pop rock (that, like the upside-down shots, makes no sense to me) and you’ve got Ocean’s Kentucky.
*. With all this gimmickry you have to wonder what the point is. To appeal to an audience that can’t focus on one thing at a time? To distract us from a not very interesting story? To provide a distraction? To be emotionally expressive? I think it’s very well done, or very slickly done, but I don’t see where it lends itself to drawing a fuller or deeper portrait of Spencer and Warren. Which, I believe, was the goal.
*. The connection to The Bling Ring is more thematic. Both movies deal with gangs of relatively affluent suburban young people who adopt the gangster lifestyle and found themselves, not ironically, the stars of their own crime film. But in The Bling Ring the motivation is more to the point, while in American Animals . . . well, as I began by suggesting, perhaps the lack of motivation is the point. Either way: kids today.
*. For me it’s a frustrating film. It’s well produced and sometimes quite clever, with the heist itself being a suspenseful set piece. But it also fails to live up to its potential. It’s a true story that gives itself an opportunity to really open up that story for further investigation, or moral or social inquiry, and it doesn’t go there. Instead it settles for being a movie about a bunch of young people who wanted to be in a heist movie, and that’s exactly where they ended up.

The Bling Ring (2013)

*. The Bling Ring was a name given to a bunch of young people who broke into celebrity homes in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 2008-2009. I feel I have to begin by mentioning this because ten years after their crime spree, a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales that inspired both a TV movie in 2011 and this film in 2013, and a book-length treatment by Sales that came out the same year, I imagine the actual events that started the ball rolling have now been forgotten. The Ring’s fifteen minutes were up a long time ago.
*. One may wonder, as I did, why a dramatic film (much less two) was necessary. Of course anything linking crime and celebrity will have an audience, so instead of necessary perhaps a better question would be who would find such a story attractive. What, for example, would attract Sofia Coppola to such a project?
*. Item: During the “Making of” featurette included with the DVD production designer Anne Ross has this to say about her reaction when Coppola told her that she was keen on doing it: “I was completely uninterested and I couldn’t believe she wanted to spend all this time living in this world, because it was so repellent to me, and it was repellent to her too so I was very confused about it.”
*. I feel the same way. I enjoyed Sales’ book, but I didn’t think a movie was necessary. What would be the purpose? Satire? But the funniest parts in the movie are things that the gang actually said and did and all the best lines are verbatim quotes. And in any event you can’t satirize this sort of behaviour. It’s self-satirizing.
*. I also wonder what the purpose was in changing all the names. No doubt some legal consideration was involved, but since the individuals represented are easily identifiable anyway I don’t know what the problem might have been. I mean, any resemblance to persons living or dead was not only not coincidental but purposive and precise.
*. One of Mark Kermode’s most violent takedowns on his review channel is of the film Entourage. What he seemed to hate the most about it was the message that everyone in the audience would like to emulate the bros in the movie. That’s not Coppola’s point here, but it is an opinion we hear expressed by Marc, who says that celebrities like Paris Hilton live “the lifestyle everybody wants.” That seems to me to be a litmus test for movies like this. Perhaps not so much whether you would want to live this sort of life, but can you even relate to someone who would?
*. Put another way, just how offended are you by these people? Kermode thought Larry Clark or Harmony Korine would have made the same film in a nastier fashion, and he thinks that would have been a bad thing. On the other hand he can’t find much to praise in Coppola’s “terribly lightweight and terribly affectless” portrayal of a world that is equally vacuous. Ross says she found the Ring repellent, but Kermode found a “kind of engaging sympathy” in their portrayal.
*. Saying that I really don’t care much either way may be a cop out, but it’s how I felt. Fifteen minutes in (I looked at the clock) I wrote a note to myself asking “Why is this movie so dull?” Was Coppola really that interested in the story? It doesn’t seem to have inspired her. Anyone could have made this movie, and probably already had.
*. After reading the book I wondered if the gang members were really as stupid as they seemed to be or if they were just acting stupid. They did think they were reality TV stars, after all (and in the case of a couple of them they actually were). Where Coppola’s film falls down, I feel, is that she gets no closer to answering this question. We just never get the sense of the characters as having any depth or inner life, which makes it impossible to care about them. It seems to me that a dramatic film would allow a director the opportunity to be more creative or personal or suggestive in this regard, but we remain in the land of surfaces and the superficial.
*. Where are they now? Do you even care who they were then?

Escape Room (2019)

*. Escape Room takes it premise, and its title, from a type of video game that has since morphed into real-life versions, forcing contestants to find ways out of various puzzling traps. Danny, one of the players in Escape Room, is apparently familiar with this form of entertainment, though it was new to me.
*. My own identification of the premise is that of a film genre I’ve referred to before as the Game of Death. Think Cube and Saw (the great progenitors), and such other low-budget iterations as House of 9, Breathing Room, Kill Theory, Nine Dead, Would You Rather, and Circle. That there have been so many films like this is the reason a lot of reviewers found Escape Room to be formulaic and clichéd.
*. What is the formula? I think we can identify a number of common elements. A small group of people, strangers to each other, have been brought together. They are being watched by a God-like observer, usually through security cameras. Also like God, the person running the show knows their darkest secrets and personal demons, and has seemingly infinite resources to test them. The trapped individuals then have to complete some task and find a way out of the trap they’re in. It’s a game, often played for mortal stakes.
*. All of this is part of Escape Room, to the extent that I don’t have to explain anything more about the plot. Basically a group of people volunteer to take part in an escape room game for a cash prize, only to find out that the winner will only be the last man (or woman) standing. Even the God-like forces running the show remain, as usual, mysterious. The Minos Corporation is rich, all-powerful, and omniscient but unknowable.
*. A more pressing question: Why is it that this particular formula became so popular at this time? Are we just bored by our staid, comfortable, even affluent, lives? Jay Ellis’s Jason does resemble Michael Douglas in The Game a bit. Or has modern life brought us to see ourselves as being lab rats in some kind of sinister experiment? It’s not too fanciful a thought, given the behaviour of certain social media networks. So score another one for the paranoid among us.
*. Here is the explanation offered by the Game Master (as distinguished from the Puzzle Maker) in Escape Room: “From the beginning of civilization we’ve known there was something captivating about watching human beings fight for their lives. That’s why we watch gladiator games, public executions, rubber-necking on the freeway. But now the world’s gone soft. Everything is safe. Everything is careful. So, we created a sport for people who still have a thirst for savagery, and we provided them with a box seat for life’s ultimate drama.” That’s “we” as in you in the audience watching Escape Room. “We” don’t play the game but get our kicks vicariously.
*. The formula lends itself to entertainment then, being the representation of a kind of game show. Escape Room, however, does little to advance the genre despite its bigger budget (I mean that relatively; most of these movies are excruciatingly cheap).
*. It’s hard to see where there’s much original here, right down to the invitations coming in Hellraiser boxes. The different trap rooms are nothing special, and the way the puzzles are solved struck me as highly implausible. The obligatory falling out and mutual suspicion within the group felt forced and contrived. And since when did Petula Clark’s “Downtown” become muzak or “shitty music” to be treated in such a demeaning way? That’s a great song.
*. Included with the DVD is the always-to-be-dreaded alternate ending. The reason these make me cringe is because they signal up front that the writer/director/producers didn’t know how to finish the movie. And that’s about as bad as it gets. I watched both endings and — surprise! — they’re both terrible. Unfortunately they wanted a sequel so they had to leave things open-ended. Nothing resolved. Nothing explained. Just more rooms to explore and another game to play.

Cold Pursuit (2019)

*. Cold Pursuit is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance. It’s a very close remake, with the differences being mainly cosmetic. The Serbian gang are now Native Americans, for example. About the only substantive difference I noticed was that the gangster’s estranged wife doesn’t get beat up this time around. Instead she grabs him by the balls. I guess the message is that American women are tougher than their Norwegian counterparts, but I doubt that’s actually true.
*. I liked In Order of Disappearance, but didn’t think of it as a movie crying out for a remake. That it was given an English-language makeover so quickly says something about how hard up Hollywood is for such properties. This is surprising, given how generic a plot it is.
*. Luckily, it’s a good remake. One thing that I think helped is that the original wasn’t a specifically Norwegian or European gangster film. It’s not like some J-horror movies that just don’t translate when you move them to the U.S. In fact, the first time around writer-director Hans Petter Moland was consciously aiming to make a Tarantino-style movie, so moving things to Colorado (or British Columbia and Alberta, where most of it was shot) wasn’t transplanting the original story so much as bringing it back home.
*. Leaving Moland at the helm was also a good idea, as he had a clearer idea of the sort of tone he was trying to set. Aside from that, however, I wonder how interesting a director finds such an exercise. I mean, basically he was turning around and making the exact same movie just a couple of years later. Shouldn’t it be better the second time? You’d think he would have a pretty good idea of what had worked before and what hadn’t.
*. Unfortunately the film was snakebit coming out of the starting gate because Liam Neeson gave a disastrous press interview while promoting it. This killed it at the box office. I think it might have gone on to find an audience, as it’s better than most if not all of Neeson’s previous action work (can you separate any of the Taken movies in your head? distinguish between Non-Stop and The Commuter?). I don’t think the public had grown tired of him playing such roles yet, and it’s a bit sad to see him go out on such a relatively high note because of a publicity faux pas.
*. Comparisons are not to Cold Pursuit‘s favour. Neeson is good, but I didn’t think he was an improvement on Stellan Skarsgård. Tom Bateman’s gang boss is fine, but Pål Sverre Hagen was better as the nasty dandy. Tom Jackson doesn’t project any of the slightly deranged menace of Bruno Ganz. Laura Dern has all of about three lines before disappearing.
*. Aside from the cast there’s not much new to say here as not much new is attempted. I was hoping they’d do something more with the snow plow, but there wasn’t room for that much variation. The only chance for showing some creativity comes in the way the various kills are artistically arranged. A man’s bloody corpse falls into a rack of white wedding gowns. Another is shot through a twenty-dollar bill. Another collapses into a deflating sofa. These are all meant to get a smile, and they do. Also smile-worthy are some of the musical cues.
*. It’s a decent little movie that has some fun with various conventions. I guess the story was good enough to be worth retelling, as I found it more than watchable enough even knowing in advance how it all was going to play out. It’s no better than it was the first time around, but I wouldn’t say it’s any worse either. It’s pretty much the same movie with a different cast and in English. Sure I would have liked something more, but I wasn’t expecting to get it and was happy enough with this.

 

The Commuter (2018)

*. A mysterious woman introduces herself to you on a commuter train. She gives you a task to perform. Do it and you get $100,000. Fail and your family dies. You’ll probably die too. Hell, everyone on the train will likely die.
*. That sounds a lot like the previous collaboration of director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson, Non-Stop, where the action took place on a plane, with Neeson playing another ex-cop trying to identify the bad guy before a bomb goes off. What it also sounds like, in broader outline, is a Game of Death film, where an innocent is plucked out of his or her everyday life and made to play a game for mortal stakes.
*. It’s unclear, however, exactly who or what is behind the game. The various conspirators we meet all seem to be mere flunkies, or in some cases perhaps conscripts to the cause who are as compromised or unwilling as Michael MacCauley (Neeson). This is something else The Commuter has in common with Game of Death movies (think of the end of Saw). Even Joanna may be little more than a contractor, and thus expendable.
*. As to what the precious evidence that must be destroyed consists of, I don’t think we’re ever told. Surely, however, for an organization as powerful as this retrieving it needn’t have been quite so complicated a matter. Did no one tell them that the more parts there are to a conspiracy the more likely it is to go awry? Economize, economize.
*. Is the fact that such background is missing a drawback? Not really, though it is uncommonly lazy. What I found significant, however, is that I didn’t care. The whole premise seemed so stupid it made no difference to me what was really going on. When Michael is told that he doesn’t know the power of the forces he’s up against I just shrugged. As a plot device this was all a wave of the hand anyway.
*. I also didn’t understand the behaviour of the FBI agent or what he was supposed to be doing. In this respect he is the exact counterpart of the second air marshal in Non-Stop, who I couldn’t figure out either. Ryan Engle is credited as screenwriter for both films and I have to wonder if he was just recycling characters as well as plots.
*. The thing about movies of this kind is that they are all about being clever. The hero is cast in the role of detective or puzzle-solver, and the game is filled with devious twists. If you’re not tricky enough you’re going to disappoint the audience.
*. Prepare to be disappointed here. There’s nothing tricky about The Commuter at all. It’s final act even turns into the old runaway-train gag, topped off with one of those “oh my god, the friend of the hero is actually the villain!” moments. There is no suspense. There is little imagination. In one of the fight scenes Neeson has to beat on someone with an electric guitar. That, I’m afraid, is as good as it gets.
*. There’s not much to add. The only thing to like here is Neeson, and even he’s starting to seem tired as an action hero. The best I can find myself saying is that he’s putting a little more effort into these roles than Bruce Willis is these days. Faint praise indeed, but the rest of the film is just a bore.

Non-Stop (2014)

*. The opening shot reveals the morose face of Bill the U.S. Air Marshal (Liam Neeson) through the windshield of his car. This is the contemporary (as of 2014) action hero as grey veteran. Wounded. Vulnerable. But only on the inside. He’s still tough as nails and pretty much a superman.
*. Bill is a burned-out case and has taken to drink. On his flight from New York to London he will be tested by a terrorist who has, for some obscure reason, developed an enormously complicated plan involving killing passengers one-by-one before threatening to blow the whole plane out of the sky.
*. I won’t tell you what the plot involves. Not because I don’t want to spoil it (it does that well enough on its own, and anyway I don’t care about spoilers), but because it would take too long to explain and even then I’m not sure it would make any sense. I mean, I’m still not sure what role the other air marshal on the plane had to play. What was going on there? In any event, I like how the news reporter at the end calls it “an unbelievable twist.” At least they gave us a wink.
*. As I was watching I was intrigued by the possibility that Bill might really be a terrorist, suffering the law enforcement version of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. That would have been interesting. And been more believable than what we find out is really going on. I mean, using a blowpipe to fire poison darts at people? That’s from Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds (U.S. title Death in the Air). And it was less ridiculous in Christie’s story!
*. If you’re not into reading Agatha Christie novels — and, if you’re watching Non-Stop, you probably aren’t — then you can see this as just a remake of Passenger 57, or any other classic Hollywood action movie from that era. Producer Joel Silver is best known for having done the Lethal Weapon series and the first two Die Hard films, and basically Non-Stop is more of the same with CGI.
*. Silver figured there would have to be a sequel, but he didn’t want it to be set on a plane. You do have to mix these things up a bit. As it happened, Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra would soon reunite for The Commuter, which is almost this same exact movie, right down to the laughable plot, set on a train.
*. So it’s all very silly, but in a familiar way. I was expecting the ending to be a rabbit pulled out of a hat and it sure was. But getting to the end was, if not a lot of fun, at least entertaining enough. The hero is no longer a figure interested in self-sacrifice but is rather someone seeking his own redemption, which is effected in a clumsy way at the end as he gets to save a surrogate daughter. This is meant to make us feel good. At least good enough to want to see it all over again a few years later.

In Order of Disapperance (2014)

*. Cold, slow, and dry. None of which are bad attributes in themselves, but put them all together and you’ve got a strange kind of action movie. There are lots of people being killed — the title announces the coming body count — but not in a noisy way. Everything seems quiet and low key. Then again, maybe Scandinavian people are like this. They don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves.
*. The plot is familiar even if the setting is a little off the beaten track. Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) is a dour fellow who drives a massive snow plow. His son is unknowingly sucked into some shady drug dealings and ends up being killed by gangsters. Nils seeks revenge, and the cycle of violence expands when the local gang gets into a turf war with the Serbian mob.
*. Scandinavian noir? Well, there is a lot of snow and it’s definitely noir. And it has that sense of quiet about it that may be characteristic of the genre. But I’d call it more a modern Brit crime film crossed with Fargo. Director Hans Petter Moland also acknowledges he’s a big fan of the Coen brothers and Tarantino and it’s hard to miss that debt too.
*. It’s very well done, and the brightness of all that snow is an interesting visual element, but at the end of the day I just didn’t feel there was enough that was new here. Even the black comedy of the gangsters is formulaic. The leader is a vegan with a ponytail or man-bun. A couple of his underlings are gay. There is the usual juxtaposition of the crime business with odd domestic details.
*. Still, there’s much to enjoy. The sound of boots squeaking on packed snow. The plow as juggernaut of fate. The sense we have of Skarsgård’s weight as he sits on top of the guy he’s beating to a pulp. Bruno Ganz (the head of the Serbian mob) as Nils’s soulmate. Moments to enjoy, but nothing to get excited about. Enough, however, to ensure an English-language remake as Cold Pursuit.