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IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE Papa Snowblood

In Order Of Disappearance

Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Starring Stellan Skarsgard, Pal Sverre Hagen, Bruno Ganz

There is an old Klingon proverb, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’, and it gets oh so very cold in Norway. In Order Of Disappearance is a violent pseudo-western revenge driven action flick cum crime thriller, set against a bleak white background with a streak of off beat black humour.

When his son is murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, the humble snow plough driver Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard – alternating between hangdog expression and blood-crazed lunatic) goes gunning for revenge. Nils starts working his way up the supply chain with a ruthless efficiency that no one expected, but soon ends up in the centre of an all-out drug war. As Nils, the Serbian Mafia, and a drug lord know as ‘The Count’ (Pal Sverre Hagen) all draw nearer to a brutal showdown, the survival chances of any of them becomes highly questionable.

It is remarkable how well the icy tundra substitutes for the sun-baked west. Both are inhospitable to life, where only the brave, foolhardy or desperate seek to make something at the frontiers of civilisation. Ultimately, as this film demonstrates, a graveyard is still a graveyard, be it dust-blown or swept by winter wind. It is all a bleak stark beauty, strangely evocative of a fine spaghetti western.

This is a Nordic Noir love letter to American films written large in copious amounts of red. From action flicks, westerns, to the off-centre crime films of the Coen brothers – all are paid homage to here as their tropes are clearly visible. A villain straight from the Hans Gruber Finishing School, gangster names drawn from Top Gun and Dirty Harry, an atmospheric soundtrack with steel guitars and harmonicas, a father out for revenge that would do Charles Bronson proud, and a bloody climactic shoot out that leaves few breathing by the close.

Yet it is also its own strangely unique beast, full of quirkiness. Be that the vegan drug lord with the electric car and ongoing child custody battle, the constant analysis by the criminal flunkies on the Norwegian welfare system, or the placard as an obituary to a character that has just died on screen, all give In Order Of Disappearance its own distinctive Nordic flavour. Generally this adds a touch of humour to the proceedings, giving it more of an edge than a straight splatterfest. Occasionally these fall flat (like the lead character being called Dickman…), but overall they land more often than not, shifting everything slightly off kilter.

As they say in Kill Bill, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”. In this snow-bound blood drenched revenge rampage perhaps digging a few extra would be prudent, as the bodies do pile up awfully quick.

DAVID O’CONNELL

In Order Of Disappearance screens at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, December 23, until Sunday, December 28, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. Go to perthfestival.com.au for more information.