Thursday, 14 March 2013

Jackpot (Arme Riddere)

Jackpot (Arme Riddere)

When your number’s up…

Jackpot, the latest Scandinavian Noir to hit UK cinemas, begins as it means to go on with a scene that could almost serve as a metaphor for the entire story.  A couple of rowdy, drunken doofus’ (doofi?), just out for a good time, drive up to strip bar/porn emporium Pink Heaven on the Norwegian/Swedish border in the middle of the day and are promptly blown away when they walk through the doors and straight into a violent gun-battle.  Fate is a bitch and luck only comes in two flavours; bad and dumb. 

When the smoke clears, there’s eight bodies on the floor and trapped beneath an obese stripper’s corpse, bloody and battered, clutching an empty shotgun, is main suspect, and sole survivor, Oscar (Kyrre Hellum).  How fate and dumb luck came to put him there is the tale he recounts to the skeptical Inspector Solar (Henrik Mestad) in a twisty series of comic flashbacks that thumb their nose at The Usual Suspects.

Oscar is the foreman at an artificial Christmas tree plant, supervising a workforce mostly made up of ex-cons.  Good-natured and mild-mannered, he gets on well with his workers and is coerced into joining a work football pool syndicate consisting of childhood friend and perpetual screw-up Thor (Mads Ousdal), cheerful Dan (Andreas Cappelen) and volatile psychopath Billy (Arthur Berning).  When the quartet beat the odds and win the jackpot, it doesn’t take long for Billy to work out that the four-way split would go much further if there were only three of them.  Or maybe two.  Or maybe just one.

As the knives (and hammers come out) and the motley crew double- and triple-cross each other, events spiral out of control leading to a rising death toll, a spot of amateur body disposal involving the factory wood chipper, a lost decapitated head and a field of hungry pigs.  Meanwhile Oscar’s nosy landlord, ex-cop Gjedde (Fridtjov Saheim) is sniffing around, trying to figure out just why Oscar’s redecorating his flat in the middle of the night.  And there’s the small matter of Thor’s unpaid debts to local gangster and strip joint owner Lasse (Peter Andersson)…

As stylish, slick and fast-moving as Morten Tyldum’s adaptation of Headhunters, Magnus Martens’ Jackpot sees the King of Nordic Noir, Jo Nesbø, in a much more playful mood.  Like a Coen Brothers movie on a coke binge, Jackpot is a grimy, darkly funny tale of dishonor among thieves that rattles along at a cracking pace and will make you think twice about joining that work Lottery syndicate your co-workers keep badgering you about.  It may lack the fiendish plotting of Headhunters but it doesn’t need it; Jackpot is a down-and-dirty, blue collar noir where Headhunters was a exquisitely groomed, glossy crime thriller.  It’s savage and brutal, the violence a punchline to the action, as our increasingly beleaguered hero staggers from one increasingly screwed-up situation to the next, just trying to come out of the whole ordeal alive and quid’s in.

The performances are perfect, Kyrre Hellum is gret as the hapless Oscar, an unreliable narrator who may not be as innocent as he makes out, Henrik Mestad is excellent as the eccentric, deadpan, and very funny, cop and Mads Ousdal is good fun as lunkhead Thor.  Peter Andersson and Arthur Berning give good scary bad guy and the film just never slows or lets up long enough to let you pick holes in its plot.  Martens keeps the script tight and he and cinematographer Trond Hoines deliver a vision of rural Norway as seedy and deadly as any LA back alley or Texas border town.

Short, sharp and deliciously, gorily funny, Jackpot is a gleefully violent crime caper that takes no prisoners. 

David Watson

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
1 hour 26 minutes
UK Release Date:
10th of August 2012

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