In case you’re wondering what it’s like to fuck with Stellan Skarsgård – and I don’t mean in a sexual sense, but in terms of actually royally pissing him off – then Kraftidioten (or its craftier English title In Order or Disappearance) serves as an illustration of what the man is capable of. Doubling as a slice of Nordic noir and revenge Western albeit on ice, Skarsgård does a riveting Clint Eastwood-esque impression, his spectacularly gruff, no-nonsense badassery becomes the film’s best asset. An ordinary man embroiled in a drug trade out to avenge a murdered kin is not exactly the most novel of narratives, but Skarsgård makes it deeply felt, transforming from a quiet family man to a remarkably hard-as-nails seeker of justice, and by that he means business. The bleak Norwegian snow become his landscape for vengeance and while the body count increases, so does the splashes of blood punctuate the cold, inexorable whiteness, similar to the way the Coens painted the white blizzard of Fargo red.
The comparison is no accident – director Hans Petter Moland retains the Coens’ influence of jet-black humour, which superbly offsets the film’s grim, violent events. The ‘disappearance’ in the title refers to actual people missing in the desolate Nordic snow, collateral damages of three feuding fathers – Skarsgård’s wronged-upon Nils Dickman (a name that becomes a running joke), Pål Sverre Hagen’s uppity bakery-magnate-cum-drug-lord The Count and Bruno Ganz’s hoarse-voiced Serbian mafia boss Papa. The first twenty minutes kicks off conventionally, but Moland abandons quotidian drama and reveals a dexterously plotted scheme of one man muscle against an entire band of gangsters, who all happen to be pursued by another rival drug organisation. If that all sounds ever so serious, it’s not. The proceedings are injected with such unexpected wit and deft humour – churning out big laughs from the carrot-smoothie slurping gangsters, hilarious analyses of Nordic welfare estate by the police and the benefits of prison life in Norway as deemed by the Serbians. And you wouldn’t expect such uproarious laughter from a jibe about Stockholm Syndrome ever. Without a doubt, this will go down as one of the most memorable films come end-of-the-year season.