When one thinks of Scandinavia, several images may spring to mind; ancient Vikings, quaint fishing villages, perplexing furniture megastores. Over the last few years however, a new element has arisen to, at least partially, define that most northern region of our planet: crime fiction. For some reason, perhaps it’s the solitude of being shut inside on long winter nights, countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are churning out dark, gripping crime films.
Though some of these films make their way to the United States, the few that become even relatively popular are usually snatched up for American remake. The originals are often so revered, however, that those responsible for their creation will be given opportunities to cross over into making films in America. Case in point, this week sees the theatrical release of Dead Man Down, starring Noomi Rapace and directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Need a refresher course on these two? Want to delve into more outstanding Scandinavian crime films? Here are few we would highly recommend:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Probably the most well known of the Scandinavian crime films, and one that was largely responsible for the resurgence of this strange niche is Sweden’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This bleak mystery follows a journalist and a hacker as they probe the years-prior disappearance of a young woman, uncovering many shadowy secrets about her family along the way. The thing that makes the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so compelling is that the journey to the truth is every bit as drenched in shock and horror as is the final reveal. Noomi Rapace first played the cybergoth badass Lisbeth Salander in Niels Arden Oplev’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular novel prior to Rooney Mara’s interpretation in the David Fincher remake. Dead Man Downtherefore represents a very intriguing reunion. The entire "Millennium Trilogy" is currently streaming on Netflix.
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Not only a standout of this particular genre, but quite possibly one of the best films of 2011, Norway’s Headhunters is a crowd-pleasing, spiraling crime farce. Based on a novel by Jo Nesbo, the film follows a corporate headhunter who uses his interviews to find new marks for his nightly activity: stealing valuable works of art. What’s fascinating about Headhunters is how much empathy we as an audience are willing to lend to, by all rights, a despicable human being. There is a natural sort of dark comedy in how completely in over his head Roger gets, and how he has to claw his way out. The film also boasts some tremendously snappy editing that keeps the tension brewing at all times. Headhunters is currently streaming on Netflix. Game of Thronesfans might recognize costar Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the dastardly Jaime Lannister from the HBO series.
Like Headhunters, Norway’s Jackpot is also based on a novel by Jo Nesbo. It centers on a blue-collar schlub named Oscar who makes the mistake of making a large sports wager with some of his less reputable coworkers…the bigger mistake, as it turns out, was winning the bet. Like the art-stealing protagonist of Headhunters, all the criminals in Jackpot quickly realize they are operating beyond their capacity for underhandedness, allowing for the construction of a comedy of errors. The action sequences in Jackpotare surprisingly just as well crafted as is the humor, and the ever-shifting group dynamic is outlandishly entertaining. The playful chronology of the piece allows for the ending to appear less as a twist and more as the inevitable, but thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
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Dutch crime comedy Plan C once again plays upon the theme of a hapless amoral protagonist who dabbles in full-scale criminality, but ultimately ends up biting off far more than he can chew. In Plan C, that antihero is a gambling-addicted police detective who hires two crooks to knock over an illegal casino. Though his motives are sympathetic enough, trying to pay off the Chinese mob threatening his family, it is really the two oddball thieves that carry the movie and, in some instances, prove more amiable than the detective. What Plan C does possibly better than any of the other movies on this list is point out the absurdity of the notion of a foolproof criminal scheme. The disastrous chain of events in the hotel room near the end is sterling evidence of the existence of Murphy’s Law in the underworld.
Just Another Love Story
Ole Bornedal’s Danish crime drama Just Another Love Story actually seems somewhat aware of its region’s own noir legacy. At one point, a character quips, “beautiful women and a mystery…isn’t that how all film noirs begin?” The film centers on a police photographer who inadvertently causes an automobile accident that sends a young woman into a coma. While checking on her, the woman’s family mistakes him for her boyfriend and he can’t bear to make their lives worse by admitting the truth, especially after she wakes with no memory. This movie is aptly named, as there is something enthrallingly romantic in our hero’s task. His sincere wish to restore the woman’s memory is heartbreaking, and he begins to become lost in the world he has constructed for her. As the truth of the woman’s story prior to the crash begin to surface, however, it’s clear that his good intentions will potentially doom him. Bornedal made his own leap to American films when he directed last year’s Jewish horror film The Possession.
[Photo Credit: Knut Koivisto/Yellow Bird Films]
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Disney, Miramax Take Spat Outside
Miramax Films and parent company The Walt Disney Co. have made it clear they are looking to renegotiate their contract, The Associated Press reports. Miramax's current deal expires in 2009, but an option in the contract allows Disney to renegotiate the relationship in 2005. At issue, according to AP sources, is Disney's desire to pay Miramax founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, less money and to impose caps on exploding budgets at Miramax. Last week, Eisner said Disney has no plans to sell Miramax, but he added that the studio had been unprofitable in three of the past five years. AP reports this prompted a strong denial from Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik, who said the studio was making money, as evidenced by Disney paying a bonus to the Weinsteins that was predicated on Miramax turning a profit. "If Disney thinks Miramax is so unprofitable, Bob and Harvey would be happy to buy it back if Disney names the price," Hiltzik told AP.
Gibson Sues Over Passion Box Office Gross
Mel Gibson's company, Icon Distribution Inc., has sued movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group for more than $40 million, claiming Regal failed to pay Icon its fair share of box office receipts for The Passion of the Christ, Reuters reports. In the suit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Icon said its agreement with Regal called for the companies to share receipts on "studio terms," which Icon defined as 55 percent of gross ticket sales paid to it and 45 percent retained by Regal. Icon claims Regal has reneged on that deal and offered to pay Icon only 34 percent, instead, Reuters reports. The Passion has grossed nearly $370 million domestically.
Bootlegged Soul Plane Blamed for Poor Box Office
The critically panned comedy Soul Plane may have bombed at the box office but the film hit big on the black market. Variety reports that as early as April, illegal and very high quality DVD and VHS copies of the film were so widely available among street vendors that some involved with the film blame its poor box office performance on bootleggers. "We're the first movie that can demonstrate a direct relationship between digital piracy and box office sales," Plane's producer David Scott Rubin told Variety. "Even if the movie isn't any good, if a movie is out on the streets for two months with your core audience, the word of mouth works against you." The FBI is said to be investigating how Soul Plane was hijacked, though the agency, citing normal policy, would not confirm or deny a probe, Variety reports.
Date With Bridget Sequel Changed
Universal Pictures and Miramax Films, which co-financed the sequel Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, have changed the release date and distributor of the film. Universal will now distribute the film, in which Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth reprise their roles, and will open the film Nov. 19. Variety reports both studios attributed the distribution shift to the fact that Universal had more opportunities, while Miramax's slate got full suddenly with Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
FCC Settles With Clear Channel
The Federal Communications Commission has reached a $1.75 million settlement with Clear Channel Communications to resolve a number of indecency complaints against radio shock jock Howard Stern and other radio personalities, the AP reports. The agreement settles fines proposed by the agency against Clear Channel for sexually explicit remarks Stern made on New York City-based radio in an April 2003 broadcast. A source told the AP the deal also covers 10 open investigations and some 25 pending cases stemming from listener complaints lodged against shows on Clear Channel stations. Clear Channel has since removed Stern from the six of its 1,200-plus stations.
Role Call: Mortensen Gets Lesson on Violence, Vanilla Sky Sequel in Works, Final Destination 3 On the Way
Viggo Mortensen is in negotiations to star in New Line Cinema's A History of Violence for director David Cronenberg. The film, based on John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel of the same name, is about an ordinary family's life after the father receives unwanted national attention for a seemingly vigilante-style self-defense killing at his diner. Mortensen would play the father … Judy Greer and Paul Schneider have signed on for roles in Cameron Crowe's follow-up to 2001's Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown. The Paramount Pictures project already stars Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Biel … New Line Cinema has greenlighted Final Destination 3, reuniting the studio with franchise creators Glen Morgan and James Wong. Wong directed the original film, which he wrote with Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, in 2000. While the third installment is expected to continue in a similar vein as its two predecessors, Morgan and Wong have not yet revealed their take on this sequel.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
Actor Robert Blake, along with the Los Angeles Police Department, is staying quiet in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The shooting occurred Friday outside a Hollywood-area restaurant as Blake reportedly entered the eatery to retrieve a handgun he had left there.
The L.A.P.D. refused to comment Tuesday on the investigation. Investigators were seen on Monday carefully removing an unknown object from a trashcan near the restaurant--apparently entered into evidence--according to reports by The Associated Press and Reuters.
The Los Angeles Coroner's office has told Reuters that it had been ordered by police to keep Bakley's autopsy report undisclosed. According to AP, police said Blake is not a suspect and police had not found gunpowder residue on Blake after the shooting.
Blake, 67, is staying tightlipped about the incident. Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, told ABC Radio on Monday that even a lie detector test was out of the question due to his client's emotional duress, but did say that he had "absolutely no doubt" that Blake is innocent.
During the same interview, Braun said that, in hindsight, Blake wished he had not gone back to the restaurant to retrieve his gun but that "he just knew that she had a generalized concern and maybe he thought she was a little paranoid."
Braun also told AP that a man in his 20s began showing up at Blake's Studio City home a few weeks before Friday's murder, based on information provide by private investigator Scott Ross, who has been hired by Blake to probe Bakley's murder.
Braun did not want to comment Tuesday.
Bakley's brother expressed his doubt Monday about the Baretta star's concern for his wife following the shooting.
"When they had her on the gurney pumping her chest still working on her, he's walking off with the police," Peter Carlyon, Bakley's brother, told Extra. "I don't know about most people, but if my wife was shot and they're still working on her, I'd be there."
Carlyon was critical about Blake's explanation to police that he was in possession of the handgun due to his concern for Bakley's safety.
"I've heard all the things on the news about how he was carrying a gun because his wife feared for her life. She didn't want him carrying the gun," Carlyon said.
Blake married Bakley, 45, late last year after a DNA test determined that he was the father of her baby daughter, Rose, born in June. Blake married Bakley out of obligation, Braun has said.
Carlyon also Extra that Blake and Bakley lived in separate homes on his Studio City estate - which Braun also told AP - and that Blake's affections for her had waned in recent years.
"Basically, he didn't really want anything to do with her," Carlyon said.
Braun had told AP that the couple's "relationship was improving."
In an interview with WMC-TV in Memphis, Tenn., Carlyon said that Bakley had told him that Blake had allegedly threatened her recently. He said that Bakley had claimed that Blake had made several "verbal threats to her," and told her that she didn't have to worry if life was getting her down because he "already had a bullet with her name on it."