In Order of Disappearance Review

In Order of Disappearance

I first saw Stellan Skarsgård in Insomnia. The original version that is, not the american remake with the sadly departed Robin Williams.

This was of course, way back in 1997, when the principal Scandinavian entertainment ambassador was more Chef-With-Comedy-Accent than Girl-With-Dragon-Tattoo.

Skarsgård was great in the role, a knotted, angsty mess of a man. Since then, I’ve seen him regrettably used to lighter, mainstream effect, either prancing around in Abba musicals or via supporting turns in Marvel superhero and Caribbean Pirate franchises.

It is therefore pleasing to see Skarsgård back in familiar surroundings in new film In Order of Disappearance, again playing a tortured outsider battling against the odds.

Skarsgard plays Nils Dickman, and yes his surname becomes a running joke. Dickman’s a humble snowplough operator who has recently been elected citizen of the year in his small town.

Tragedy soon strikes when his son turns up dead from a drug overdose.

Nils is adamant about his son’s innocence, immediately suspecting foul play, and it isn’t long before he goes all Charles Bronson on the thugs responsible.

However, the local kingpin isn’t overjoyed at the mysterious disappearance of his underlings and retaliates. Albeit in the wrong direction.

Nils’ vendetta thus triggers a bloody feud between a gang of local cocaine pushers and the Serbs with whom they share the drug trade.

In Order of Disappearance has the feel of a revenge-western, albeit one which plays out against the snowscapes of the Norwegian countryside. Nils’ foes are initially dispatched one-by-one before the violence inevitably escalates into a larger game.

The film is also very funny, but in a dark way. For example, there are plenty of smackabout incidents of inter-gang rivalry but it’s all a bit too sombre to be Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Snowploughs.

Instead it ends up feeling slightly Tarantino with its philosophising hoods and feeling quite Coen Brothers with its irreverent and droll attitude to death and murder.

The plotline itself is a little by the numbers, but the characters are what make it work.

Skarsgård effortlessly holds the screen with a subdued performance, in contrast to Pål Sverre Hagen as over-the-top kingpin Greven. Think a Norwegian version of Gary Oldman’s Stansfield from Leon.

Greven’s own domestic troubles with his ex-wife and distant son are nicely and humorously juxtaposed Sopranos-style against his wider activities as a crime boss.

There is also strong support from Bruno Ganz, whom you may recognise from his now-viral stint as Adolf Hitler in Downfall. Ganz plays Papa, the Serbian crime boss who locks horns with Greven.

The film also features a Japanese assassin, a pair of closeted henchmen and some weak-stomached cops.

If the film is about anything, it’s territory. Nils is a peaceful immigrant, whose world is invaded by outside forces. And the Serbian drug pushers, who have reached a business agreement with their Norwegian colleagues, find their existence unexpectedly threatened.

One thing’s for sure: in the cinematic turf war of black comedy thrillers, In Order of Disappearance shows that the Norwegians are comfortably holding their own.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2014