Posts Tagged ‘Kyrre Hellum’

In the wake of Trollhunter, further proof (if any be needed) that they have a strange sense of humour up in Norway comes from Jackpot, a jet-black-with-splatterings-of-arterial-red comedy-thriller from Magnus Martens. I suspect that this movie owes its UK release to the substantial success earlier this year of Headhunters, another Norwegian crime movie with darkly comic elements. Headhunters was adapted from a novel by Jo Nesbo – Jo pronounced ‘Yo’, final O with a diagonal line through it – while Jackpot is based on an original idea by the same author. Does this difference show? Well…

With Christmas looming (good choice of release date, guys), the police on the Swedish-Norwegian border are presented with an interesting case when they come across the remains of a bloodbath at a sex-shop/strip club. The carnage has been so energetic that it’s quite difficult to work out exactly how many people died, and the presiding detective, Inspector Solor – diagonal line through the second O – (Henrik Mestad), is quite bemused. But then the hapless figure of Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum) emerges from beneath the corpse of a deceased obese stripper, pump-action shotgun in hand, and once he is arrested there is at least the possibility of getting some answers.

Oscar tells a strange tale – his job is as a manager in a business employing ex-convicts, a trio of whom basically bullied him into joining a football pools syndicate with them. To everyone’s astonishment, they won over 1.7 million kroner (in proper money that’s nearly… ah… er… I’ll get back to you on that one) at the first attempt. Unfortunately, given the violently criminal past of nearly everyone involved and the heroic quantities of alcohol consumed in their celebrations, someone very soon realises that a quarter of 1.7 million kroner is all very well, but a third is even better… to say nothing of a half…

What follows is not subtle, nor does it attempt to be particularly suspenseful, and it really does give the lie to all this stuff in the media about the current influx of ‘Nordic noir’. Noir? In Jackpot, one character gets stuffed into a wood chipper while someone else gets shot in the head with a nailgun; I don’t remember either of those things happening in The Big Sleep. That said, the influence of recent American films like The Usual Suspects and the Tarantino canon is very clear.

Jackpot is frequently very funny indeed, although many of the most amusing scenes really require a strong stomach (that said, there is a very droll running gag about no-one involved being able to divide 1.7 million in their head). Hellum gives a rather endearing performance as a man totally out of his depth and the rest of the cast walk the line between comedy and drama with considerable aplomb, for the most part. And I have to commend any film with a soundtrack that concludes with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – even if I have to knock points straight off again for it being a cover rather than the Slade original. Sometimes substitutes are simply not acceptable.

But it’s nowhere near as good as Headhunters, quite simply because that film had a Rolls Royce engine of a story where solid plot and characterisation meshed and played off each other pretty much perfectly. Jackpot’s story is more like the engine of an Audi Quattro, and no, I’m not going to pursue this metaphor in any more detail.

It’s very clear that Martens knew exactly the kind of atmosphere and pace he wanted for his film, with an ever-increasing spiral of horribly absurd and progressively more grisly events besetting the hapless Oscar. And this happens, more or less; the problem is that the plot isn’t supported by the characters, who are a pretty thin bunch in places. People do startling things just to keep the plot rolling forward, unheralded by any set-up in previous scenes – in our house this is called melodrama when it happens in a film which aspires to be serious. In a comedy… well, it’s just dodgy plotting. Halfway through, for example, one character turns out to have a previously-unhinted-at connection to Oscar, just because it’s necessary in order to give him a reason not to kill the hero. The film is well-made enough for this kind of thing to slip past in a not-too objectionable manner, but the end result is still a selection of great set-pieces strung together by a slightly ramshackle narrative.

I would stress the former rather than the latter when recommending Jackpot to a friend, though – it’s still much smarter, funnier, and better played than a lot of Anglophone films operating in this kind of genre. Definitely worth a look, but more for fans of Killing Zoe than The Killing.

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