The film’s title, In Order of Disappearance, may seem odd. Yet it ultimately reflects a perfect symbiosis of plot and tone.
By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Think a Martin McDonagh sensibility (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) snowed in by a Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight winter. And add in an avenging father drama (Death Wish, In the Bedroom). Even so, all these film influences aside, In Order of Disappearance bristles with its own brand of quirk.
The movie opens on a scene of a train cleanly cutting through a thick, white snowy landscape. Which is followed by a scene of a razor cleanly cutting through thick, white shaving cream. Since the razor slightly nicks the man’s face, he slaps on a bit of tissue in order to stanch the small drop of blood. Be warned: This is the one and only time that the film will allow for such a minuscule amount of blood.
This particular shave is in preparation of a special occasion: this quiet, work-a-day snowplow driver, Stellan Skarsgård’s Nils, is being feted as Citizen of the Year. “You might think of me as a pathfinder,” he says, accepting the award. “Even if I keep finding the same path over and over again.”
But once Nils learns that his adult son has supposedly died of a heroin overdose, the everyday routine of finding the path abruptly ends, never to be found again. Overcome with grief, Nils is about to blow his head off with a rifle … but he’s interrupted by his son’s co-worker, who explains that the son was an innocent victim, erroneously targeted by local drug dealers. Nils takes the rifle out of his mouth; though he still has death on his mind, he’s no longer the target.
Relying on his fists, guns and his snowblower-turned-killing-machine, Nils effortlessly moves up the drug consortium’s food chain, slaying street soldiers, underlings and captains in an effort to get to the kingpin named “The Count.” Though ending people’s lives is a new pursuit for this avenging father, somehow his being an amateur is far more effective than he could have imagined.
Working off a wild screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson, director Hans Petter Moland mixes up his payback crime drama with a crazy quilt of comedy – slapstick, lowbrow, highbrow – while adding in nutty, Tarentino-esque asides about such topics as Norwegian society. For example, when warring Serbian drug lords fly in to confront The Count, they discuss the superior quality of Norwegian prisons: the hot meals, the comprehensive dental program and environs that are 100% rape-free. The Serbs attribute these conditions to a welfare state because, in warmer climes, welfare isn’t necessary. “You pick a banana, all is OK.”
Director Moland dispenses with the usual plot machinations of how Nils manages to get to each successive higher-up. Instead, while the murder scenes zip along, In Order of Disappearance takes its time in delivering glorious visuals. Such as the miles upon miles of barren ice and snow giving way to the beckoning, Wizard of Oz-like skyline of Oslo (digitally reconfigured to appear as a sparkling jewel rising up from an all-encompassing, white wintry blanket). It’s almost as if these arresting exteriors (cinematography by Philip Øgaard) are competing for attention with the demented, opulent interiors of the homes occupied by the local drug bosses (production design by Jørgen Stangebye Larsen). Consider the modernist chairs embellished with sculpted faces, a lavish gingerbread structure acting as a whimsical guardhouse, a wall of artfully posed 3-D hands, and kitchens big enough to house a village.
The characters who populate this land are just as wild. Playing The Count, the excellent Pål Sverre Hagen (star of 2012’s highly lauded Kon-Tiki) steals the show as the filthy rich, vegan bully narcissist who inherited his cocaine import business from his father. Abusive, thin-skinned and readily hurling racist epithets (addressing an Asian hit man, he says, “You Chinese are the Jews of Asia”), The Count bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Republican presidential candidate. (Given that the film debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014, the resemblance is merely coincidental.)
Unlike The Count’s outsize persona, Skarsgård’s Nils is a restrained, simple man, content with his daily life. Until the murder of his son. And just like that, Nils finds his inner Dirty Harry. Without any kind of self-reflection, Nils acts as if he’d simply changed jobs and, just like his previous employment, he commits to carrying out his new duties to the best of his ability.
As dispassionate as Nils appears, the screenplay allows him a glimmer of warmth in his dealings with The Count’s young son. These few scenes float above the frequent brutality, with the man and the child attempting to find a father/son connection … however brief it may be.
In Order of Disappearance looks at how this particular Citizen of the Year, when confronted with extreme injustice, trades in his humanity for the unblinking theory of an eye for an eye. However, as director Moland states in reflecting upon his film: “If you can’t have justice, you may as well have some fun.”
Rating on a scale of 5 orders to ice the enemy: 4
Release date: August 26, 2016 (selected theaters, VOD, Amazon Video, iTunes)
Directed by: Hans Petter Moland
Screenplay by: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen, Jakob Oftebro, Hjort Sørensen, Kristofer Hivju, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Running Time: 114 minutes
Here’s the trailer to In Order of Disappearance: