Review first published by Film4
Review: “I’m just a guy who keeps a strip of civilisation open for people in the wilderness.”
So says Nils (Stellan Skarsgård), snow plough operator in a small Norwegian town, as he accepts his award for Citizen of the Year. It is his job to keep the road between town and city clear of ice, but the traffic that wafts in from the glistening, neon-lit metropolis is not always so savoury. When Nils’ son is killed by enforcers from a drug gang, our unlikely middle-aged hero decides to plough a vengeful path through the criminal hierarchy. Puzzled as to why his henchmen keep disappearing, effete local kingpin the ‘Count’ (Pål Sverre Hagen) sends a retaliatory message to the rival Serbian gang of Papa (Bruno Ganz), leading to all-out vendetta, with Nils caught in the middle.
Part Nordic noir, part snow-bound neo-western, Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance (aka Kraftidioten, or ‘Strength Idiots’) offsets the whitest of widescreen landscapes against the blackest of comedy, and bleak existentialist themes against hilarious digressions. For when these criminals are not torturing, killing and betraying one another – with the bloody bodycount punctuated by brief intertitular obituaries – they spend their time discussing diet and the welfare state in a familiarly banalised Tarantino-esque register.
This is mostly absurdist, beautifully shot genre fun – but as the suit-wearing, modern art-loving, native Norwegian Count is pitted against the assimilated Swede Nils (“as Norwegian as they come without actually being Norwegian”), a half-Danish half-Japanese hitman, Nils’ brother (Peter Andersson) with the Asian mail-order bride, and a recent migrant from Serbia who must speak through an interpreter, Moland slyly comments on the shifting borders of Norwegian identity. Here Norway is still merely a half-tamed wilderness, easily absorbing all comers – for while they may be distinguished by ethnicity, religion and language, they are united in their mortality.
In a Nutshell: It is a case of white snow, black comedy in this revenge-driven state-of-the-nation parable.