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In Order of Disappearance
In terms of rewriting the rules of revenge exploitation films or dark comedies, 2014's Norwegian violent crime drama In Order of Disappearance doesn't really offer anything new, except for maybe a pretty amusing running gag where the name and religion of each character appears on screen right after they're killed. It's such a straightforward bloody revenge story about a father who vows to kill every criminal who was responsible for his son's death, that it didn't surprise me one bit that a remake with Liam Neeson is in the works. Hell, it would have been surprising if a remake with Neeson WASN'T in the works.
As far as effortless stoicism and economically doled out undeniable old man charisma is concerned, Stellan Skarsgard is the Scandinavian go-to counterpart to Neeson, so it makes perfect sense for him to be cast as the revenge-driven protagonist. He plays Nils Dickman (Apparently that last name is just as funny in Norwegian), an unassuming snow plough driver who was just awarded a citizen of the year award by the tiny rural town he lives in. But when a bunch of drug dealers, led by a yuppie douchebag wannabe named Greven (Pal Sverre Hagen, who steals the show), kill his innocent son after a drug deal gone bad, he snaps and goes after the criminals for the sole purpose of killing them.
The first act of the film is fairly episodic, as Nils goes down the list of everyone who was involved with his son's death. He beats up the perp to a pulp, gets the information about the next name on the list, kills the perp and dumps the body, repeat scene. Since every death scene is bookmarked by the name of the recently deceased on the screen, a bookend to every sequence, we're lulled into thinking that the rest of the runtime will follow this episodic slog.
However, the plot thankfully thickens as Greven thinks that a rival criminal organization led by Serbians and retaliates. An uninventive but amusingly executed running joke has Greven constantly misplacing the ethnicity of his enemies. The Serbians, led by the grumpy no-nonsense Papa (Bruno Ganz brings his trademark old man version of the resting bitch face to full force here) have no choice but to respond to this attack, leaving Nils in the middle of a violent turf war as the body count ramps up.
The plot, right up to the end, will be fairly predictable if you've seen even a couple of Coen Brothers' dark comedies, or similar fare. What we get is a late-era Liam Neeson action flick mixed with a playful version of No Country for Old Men, not to mention the Fargo visuals with extreme long shots of bitter men lost in the unforgiving isolation of the snow. It's surprising to read the trivia section of the remake and find out that it will not have the humorous elements of the original. The film's deadpan humor, full of violent but hilarious gags, is what really makes it worthwhile.
A brooding dark comedy like this almost requires a scenic and gorgeous cinematography. The film's look definitely shows its digital camera roots with an overtly clean cinematography, especially during the many scenes where the snow in the background overpowers the color scheme. That being said, I believe that the 1080p presentation reflects the film's original look fairly well, with a clean and crisp transfer. Perhaps a bit too crisp.
The violence in In Order of Disappearance is very sudden and relies more on build-up and suspense, so don't expect a lot of gunplay blasting through the surround speakers. The DTS-HD 5.1 track really comes to life when it calls for ambiance, with the sound of snow storms filling all channels. We also get an option of DTS-HD 5.1 track with English dubbing, but why would you bother with that?
Interview with Stellan Skarsgard: The actor talks about his working relationship with the director (This is their fourth film together) and confesses that he originally didn't want to do the film.
Interview with Hans Petter Molland: The director gives a detailed talk about his inspiration for the story, as well as how he planned to execute it.
We also get a Trailer.
In Order of Disappearance is a clever and inventive dark comedy that should satisfy fans of its genre, as long as they're not expecting the next best thing. The Blu-ray presentation is top notch, even though the digital cinematography resembles a mid-quality TV show rather than a feature that takes full advantage of the gorgeous snow-covered locales.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com