Friday, April 27, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Jackpot

Jo Nesbø is best known for his gritty detective Harry Hole, but film adaptations of his work have largely focused on the criminal and the compromised.  Just as Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters begins its American theatrical run here in New York, Magnus Martens’ even better and bloodier Jackpot (trailer here) screens tonight as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Oscar Svendsen is not a criminal, but the artificial Christmas tree factory he works at specializes in hiring released convicts.  According to the detective interrogating him, this means he is used to thinking like a crook.  Be that as it may, Svendsen certainly has some explaining to do, such as how he came to be found clutching a shotgun beneath a rather large dead woman, amid a bloodbath at a strip club.  Let the flashback carnage begin.

Reluctantly, Svendsen agreed to enter a betting pool with three of his scariest co-workers.  Against all the odds, their dubious betting system produces a twelve-game winning ticket.  Everyone should be happy, but when Svendsen returns to his apartment, he finds a dead body.  Supposedly, their late colleague got greedy and attacked the other two, who killed him in self-defense.  Or so they tell Svendsen.  True or not, there is a corpse to dispose of.  This will get messy.  Not for nothing, Svendsen wonders if he will be next.

Based on a Nesbø story, Jackpot is a lot like early Coen Brothers, but with a greater body count.  Evidently, the process for fabricating fake Christmas trees is a lot like sausage-making, so you know what that means.  The pieces are sent flying almost as fast and furiously as the constant double-crosses.  Indeed, Martens is not exactly shy in his approach to the material, but he keeps a tight rein on the narrative, never letting the proceedings descend into absolute bedlam.

As Svendsen, the game but unassuming Kyrre Hellum resembles a rag doll being tossed about.  However, that works rather well in the context of the film.  In contrast, Henrik Mestad displays mucho screen presence, supplying much of the film’s mordant wit as the investigating Detective Solør.  Yet, even more laughs come from blood-splattered slapstick gags that would make the re-launched Stooges blanch.  Still, Svendsen’s three knuckleheaded co-conspirators are all rather generic.  Indeed, that lack of a flamboyant villain is the only real knock on the film.

You should probably know by now if Jackpot is your cup of tea.  Frankly, the execution (so to speak) is superior to many other films in what could be considered the recent Scandinavian noir invasion, but it definitely makes the typical Tarantino impersonating film look rather sedate in comparison.  For those looking for some good chaotic fun, it definitely fits the bill.  Recommended for connoisseurs of outrageous crime drama, Jackpot screens again tonight (4/27) as the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival enters its concluding weekend.