In Order Of Disappearance

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The neat trick of Aakeson and Moland is to balance the humour with unexpected moments of poignancy and humanity as fathers from both sides of the criminal tracks share the common ground of parenthood."

The backdrop is snowy and the humour is as cold and thick as a blizzard in Hans Petter Moland's In Order Of Disappearance, written by Kim Fupz Aakeson (Perfect Sense), which dead pans along as its death count rises. The English title is a reference to intertitles that appear every time someone is iced and though the device loses some of its punch as the film progresses, it serves to illustrate the escalating violence and acts as a useful way of breaking up the action.

Stellan Skarsgård is small town snow plough operator Nils who "keeps a strip of wilderness open for civilisation" - an irony that will soon hang heavily in the air. After economically laying out Nils' pillar of the community credentials via a ceremony where he is named Citizen of the Year, Aakeson flings us into the bungled kidnapping of a couple of airport workers, one of whom is Nils' son. When the youngster is killed, Nils becomes determined to find out who is responsible, and starts hacking his way towards the head of the criminal organisation by bumping off increasingly high level henchmen.

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The kingpin in question is the sort of comic creation favoured by Quentin Tarrantino. Greven - or "the Count" - (Pål Sverre Hagen) is as angular as the furniture in his home, has a baking firm front to his empire, is a vegan and insists his young son eats five portions of fruit and veg a day. The kid is the only one who really understands the nature of violence. When told by his dad to hit a bully, he says: "But then I'll be as bad as him."

The adults - including a gang of Serbian drug dealers, led by Bruno Ganz in ageing Brando mode, who are about to get dragged into the death toll - are not so smart. And the question becomes not who will die, but whether anyone will live to tell the tale. The deaths may be frequent - and surprisingly brutal for a film that contains so much humour - and the showdown ending almost inevitable, but there are also more subtle commentaries at work. Fear of outsiders is everywhere - Greven continually refers to the Serbians as Albanian and even if Nils has been accepted, he is still an incomer, "You're as Norwegian as they come without being Norwegian," he's told.

The neat trick of Aakeson and Moland is to balance the humour with unexpected moments of humanity as fathers from both sides of the criminal tracks share the common ground of parenthood. In this, Skarsgård, complemented by Ganz, is crucial, fully selling the cold, icicle-spiked torment of a father's grief with little more than a look, which makes us instantly believe what drives him to kill as his vengeance falls on his enemies as silently and remorselessly as snow.

Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2014
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