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So ‘Jackpot (2011)’, the film version of popular Norwegian crimewriter JO Nesbo’s book ‘Arme Riddere (2007)’, yet another Scandinavian pulp writer making a ton of cash dramatizing criminals and deceit with a twist of comedy for a mostly female readership, the creator of the Headhunters books agreeing for yet another one of his books to be carved up into a movie. To be fair he writes his stuff to be movies so no great stretch. With a dash of Coen Brothers and a whiff of Tarantino its populists stuff here. I don’t know why women love crime fiction so much but apparently they buy most of it. What they don’t do is buy the subtitles movies of the books, why the film took just £65,000 here.
It’s the present day as the film explodes onto our screens with a gruesome shootout in a seedy strip club in a rural Norwegian suburb. The last man standing is the rather ordinary Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum), a community worker from Tromso. The cops arrive at the blood splattered scene with Oscar holding a shotgun, the only living suspect.
In the police station he is questioned by the somewhat gregarious Detective Solør (Henrik Mestad), who attempts to peace together what happened. His methods are unorthodox but non violent as Oscar slowly peels back the layers of the story of how a 10 stone community worker ended up underneath ten stiffs with a bag full of money.
Oscar is more than willing to tell as Solor applies his interrogation skills and quickly learns his suspect works with his best friend Thor (Mads Ousdal) for a project that provides jobs for ex convicts, currently making plastic Christmas trees for the coming holidays. It seems Oscar was persuaded to join the football pool at work and it came up, a jackpot of 1.7 million Kronas no less after Rosenborg draw late on with a header.
The two other syndicate members, Billy (Arthur Berning) and Treschow (Andreas Cappelen) are ex cons and need Oscar to cash it in. But it’s not long before the cons get greedy and one of them ends up dead at the celebration party at Oscars flat. Now planning to split it three ways the innocent Oscar is now implicated as they set about disposing of Billy’s body in the flat, the tool box the chosen method.
Hearing a rumpus from below, landlord FGjedde (ridtjov Såheim) comes up to investigate, his normally mild mannered tenant smeared in blood only just able to talk himself out of trouble. But if the money can be split three ways then it can be split two ways and with Thor owing local mobster Peter Lasse (Andersson) big money it looks like either Oscar or Trescho are next for the claw hammer.
Like Headunters and stuff like the Stig Larsson ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy these Scandinavian films don’t quite transfer to film, especially if they are dubbed like Headhunters was. I suspect the book text is far more gruesome and the conservative Scandies are uncomfortable putting that up on screen. Director Magnus Martens has tried to make it more appealing to a bigger audience by ramping up the comedy writing and situations, which there are plenty with a headless corpse around. There are genuinely funny bits here and Henrik Mestad as Detective Solør almost stealing the movie with his eclectic detective trying to be PC with young Oscar.
The story is very much nonlinear in the Tarantino style and the director admits he sets out to pay homage to the Coen boys in his movie style delivery; very much Fargo meets True Romance. The narrative is sturdy and efficient like the Volvo the boy’s race around Norway in (with the bloody headlights always on!) and the slapstick farce always engaging as it draws towards its unknown conclusion. There is always the chance of the big twist as you are led down one garden path with many more garden paths nearby.
On the whole I enjoyed the film and I would ignore the critics who say the sandwich doesn’t have enough filling. I’m sure something is lost in translation but it’s funny, quirky and morose in that Scandinavian way and you will be entertained. The subtitles are not too severe and the characters well rounded to earn your sympathies and I think you should give this one a go if you have it on demand or you like quirky foreign movies – or one of those naughty ladies who enjoy Nordic crime fiction when the hubby is asleep. Just think how many of those female partners are plotting to dissolve our bodies in a bath of acid boys.