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by Jay Seaver

"You bet this is a great black comedy."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: So, it looks like I'm going to have to start putting Jo NesbÝ stuff in my Amazon basket, as any guy who comes up with the raw material for both this and "Headhunters" is my kind of darkly funny. Proper credit must also go to Magnus Martens, though, who took the original story and made a fast-paced, very funny movie out of it.

You've got to feel sorry for that carful of obnoxious boors whose names we never learn - just arriving at the Pink Heaven strip club when suddenly everybody starts shooting. When Detective SolÝr (Henrik Mestad) and his partner Gina (Marie Blokhus) arrive, only Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum) is alive. Fortunately, Oscar is happy to tell his story - see, the factory where he works hires a lot of ex-cons, including Dan Treschow (Andreas Cappelen), newly-released Billy Utomjordet (Arthur Berning), and Oscar's old friend Tor Eggen (Mads Ousdal). They can't gamble, so Oscar places a bet on 12 soccer games - with some last-minute advice from bartender Trine (Lena Kristin Ellingsen) - that pays off big. As big as the prize is, it would cover some debts better if split fewer ways, these guys are criminals, and, you know, things happen! So none of this is really Oscar's fault!

Oscar claims not to be responsible for a lot. Despite running a swift 82 minutes, writer/director Magnus Martens packs in a great many betrayals, discoveries, unfortunate accidents, and difficulties in disposing of bodies, while also making the occasional jump forward to show SolÝr trying to untangle the mess. Martens could have padded NesbÝ's story out to the ninety-odd minutes people often expect of features with some sort of wholly predictable story arc or set of character moments, but instead he lets things happen quickly enough that the characters don't really have time to stop and consider what they're doing logically, even as the present-day segments keep things clear and have a different sense of humor.

The common element throughout the movie is Kyrre Hellum as Oscar, and he does pretty well in a tricky role. Oscar is eventually the reluctant brains of the operation, and has a nice evolution from the loser whom even the ex-cons shun to someone who might just be clever enough to be an unreliable narrator, or at least one who is not telling us everything, making it work even in the moments toward the end of the story but the beginning of the film. Henrik Mestad has a much more straightforward assignment as SolÝr - the cop whose results justify a certain amount of cockiness but is still kind of insufferable. He's hilarious working against Hellum, hitting the mark whether the joke requires him to be comically intimidating or stymied. Marie Blokhus is fine as the one who has to put up with him, an example of how good the entire ensemble is. I'm loath to say too much about the performances on the other side of the film for fear of spoiling who lives and for how long, so let it suffice that Arthur Berning and Andrea Cappelen are amusingly (though threateningly) sleazy, Mads Ousdal works as Tor whether playing up the dumb crook or the old friend angle, and Lena Kristin Ellingsen establishes such a fun, not-necessarily-romantic rapport with Hellum that the audience will likely want more of her.

Jackpot (or "Arme Riddere") is quick-moving but also pays nice attention to the details. It seldom if ever has a piece of completely conventional mayhem, dishing out a lot of nasty slapstick without repeating itself much. It sets up shell-game gags and executes them smoothly. And Martens does a very nice job of putting something important to the finale in just plain enough sight earlier that he doesn't need to call attention to it before or after.

Supposedly NesbÝ's Harry Hole novels are dark and dead-serious, so it's kind of interesting that these more comedic works are the ones getting adapted on film. I'm not cmplaining, though - they're deliciously twisted and downright side-splitting. Sometimes literally

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originally posted: 08/19/12 12:13:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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  27-Jun-2014 (NR)
  DVD: 26-Aug-2014



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