IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (Kraftidioten) is another great movie I was pushed into watching by an impending remake. In this case the remake is the Liam Neeson movie COLD PURSUIT. The same director, Hans Petter Moland, first did the story in Norway in 2014 with Stellan Skarsgard (DEEP BLUE SEA) as Nels Dickman, the stoic small town snow plow driver who up and dedicates his life to violent revenge after a drug gang kills his son (Aron Eskeland). There’s a darkly comic tone as he questions and kills his way up the ladder, rarely having much to say to them, then easily disposing of the bodies in the snow. Each time someone dies in the movie their name is written on the screen in memoriam. At first it kinda seems like chapter titles, but as shit escalates these cards become comically frequent and even cut to as shorthand for “and then they killed him.”
As good as the quiet, dispassionate anti-hero is his nemesis, the local crime kingpin known as Count (Pal Sverre Hagen, KON-TIKI). An entitled prick who inherited the crime empire from his dad, he’s a cover-of-Fleetwood-Mac’s-Rumours lookin motherfucker who lives in a fancy modern house full of art and insults his long-suffering henchmen for not taking care of his son the way he wants them to. We quickly see that that last one is not about caring, but about fighting with his ex-wife Marit (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, PITCH PERFECT 2, Vinyl). When she accuses him of only feeding the kid Fruit Loops he’s furious.
I’m not sure if he knows it, but his henchmen are letting the kid eat Fruit Loops.
His men sometimes fuck up but generally seem to have more common sense than him. Nevertheless he is quite clearly convinced that he’s smarter than everyone else. When he’s keeping himself in control, Count is a passive aggressive prick. Check out this arrogant “I’m trying to be polite but everyone here is so dumb and I’m gonna have to ask to see the manager” face:
Count is also a total psycho. As his men start turning up dead he starts having them go to war. They usually have a look on their faces that says they’re aghast about what he’s asking but will go ahead and go along with it. He’s so fond of his uninformed opinions that he starts a war with a Serbian gang, mistakenly believing
1) they killed his men
2) they’re Albanian
On the latter he never seems to budge no matter how many times he’s corrected.
He’s the most cartoonish character in the movie, but believably unlikable. There’s something very true to life about his petulant smile of repressed rage when he talks condescendingly to his men. He’s an emotional wreck who acts sadistic to cover up his insecurities, but still sometimes breaks down crying or losing his temper. And he’ll order people killed for arbitrary reasons, my favorite being after a hitman (David Sakurai, Iron Fist) is hired by Nels to kill Count, but instead comes and warns him in exchange for a pay off. Count accepts the offer, then punishes him for betraying “a paying Norwegian citizen.”
The movie takes place mostly outside of the city, in the town of Tyos or at a nearby ski lodge. So there’s almost nothing around but snow peppered with houses. Livening up this barren landscape are a whole bunch of funny characters. Several of Count’s henchmen have their own little things going on, and every once in a while Nels has to humor his annoying neighbor (Atle Antonsen), who’s always trying to recruit him to The Farmers’ Centrist Party.
Nels’s brother (Peter Andersson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS), is a former gangster who now seems to just hang around in his nice house in pajamas, relaxing. He quickly goes from being annoyed to see his brother after all these years to willingly putting his life on the line for him.
I think there are only three women in the movie: Nels’ wife (Hildegun Riise), who’s infuriated by the pigheaded way he deals with their loss; his brother’s wife (Huynh Huyen), who assumes Nels is an old crime friend and is rude to him the whole time he’s at the house; and Count’s aforementioned ex Marit, who always chews Count out and threatens his visitation rights when he forgets to go to a parent-teacher meeting or something. The movie takes the perspective of the men, with their stubborn dedication to ideals like “a father must avenge his son,” so the wives come across like kind of a pain in the ass, yet all three are undeniably correct, maybe even being too lenient with their dipshit husbands. Especially poor Marit, who gets punched hard in the face for her efforts.
And here’s Count right after that, trying to act like he hasn’t completely lost his shit:
The Serbian gang, led by the dour “Papa” Popovich (Bruno Ganz, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, THE READER, THE COUNSELOR), are more like something out of a serious crime movie, only funny because they misunderstand the idiots they’re dealing with. It’s a strong tone; a good mix of funny characters and dialogue with straight-faced gloominess. It’s hard to imagine a Liam Neeson vehicle having a similar feel, but we’ll see how it goes.
I wasn’t familiar with director Moland, and the fact that he’s doing his own American remake made me think he’s some up and coming potential hot commodity. Turns out he’s been directing since the early ’90s, and already worked with Skarsgard in ZERO KELVIN (1995), ABERDEEN (2000) and A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (2010). They also have another one called OUT STEALING HORSES coming out this year, so I guess he hasn’t been completely replaced by Neeson.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.