Jackpot (Arme Riddere) - (film review)
Director: Magnus Martens, Country Norway, 2012, 1hr 26 mins
Cast: Kyrre Hellum, Henrik Mestad and Marie Blokhus
Review by Dan Collacott
Following the success of Headhunters, writer/director Magnus Martens has brought another story by Norwegian crime thriller author Jo Nesbo, to the big screen.
Jackpot begins at brake neck speed in the thick of a bloody shoot out in a seedy strip joint. The police arrive to find Oscar Svendsen (Kyrre Hellum) crawling from underneath a female corpse, bloody, bewildered and acutely aware he is clutching a shotgun! The story is retold via eccentric police officer Solør (Henrik Mestad) as he cross-examines Oscar back at the station.
Oscar paints himself as the reluctant victim, forced to deal with each new problem regardless of the moral implications. He helps run a factory that employs former prison offenders. A shady new arrival at the factory, Dan Treschow (Andreas Cappelen) persuades Oscar, his incompetent life long friend Thor Eggen (Mads Ousdal) and fellow worker Billy Utomjordet (Arthur Berning) to play the soccer pools using a new betting system. Oscar reluctantly places the bet, but makes one crucial change to a result, which, as it turns out effectively wins them 1.7million. Oscar makes a short trip to get some more celebratory booze, but returns to find his fellow revellers have turned on, and killed one of their number. This kicks off a merry go round of greed, treachery, deceit and murder as the trio fight to dispose of bodies, pay off old debts and stay undetected by the police long enough to enjoy their tainted windfall!
The retelling of the story is quite Tarantino-esque, although the comedy and violent misadventure that features throughout probably owes more to Guy Ritchie than Quentin and the Coens. Director Magnus Martens plays the violence brutality fast and the action increasingly absurd. Oscar’s recollections are coloured by the cynicism of the superbly deadpan but razor sharp Solør. Whether Oscar is the victim or lead perpetrator is given further ambiguity in the final act when the same scenes are retold by his repugnant ex-cop landlord.
The film unashamedly owes much to John Huston classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as well as Fargo and Lock Stock (especially the music in some of the zanier scenes). It falls short of being a classic or even being in the same league as the brilliant Headhunters. Never the less, Jackpot is a stylish and enjoyable crime thriller, full of quirky but violent comic capers.
Offender (film review)
Director: Ron Scalpello, UK, 2012, 1hr 42 mins
Cast: Joe Cole, English Frank and Kimberley Nixon
Review by Dan Collacott
Before Joe Cole was ripping up sets in Peaky Blinders and Gangs of London there was his turn in Offender.
First time director Ron Scalpello’s Offender puts the spotlight on a society out of touch with it’s youth, whilst providing a modern day nod to Ray Winstone’s borstal classic Scum.
A group of hardened former youth offenders take advantage of the London riots to carry out a smash and grab motorcycle raid on a jewellery store. The robbery takes a sinister turn when gang leader Jake (English Frank) fatally shoots the shop owner. They stash the bikes and loot, but are later arrested for driving a stolen car. The gang manages to avoid taking the rap for the murder and theft, but panic when young probation officer, Elise (Kimberley Nixon) spots that Jake is wearing a rare Rolex connected to the robbery.
Elise is also the pregnant and adored girlfriend of hard working and big-hearted, youth Tommy (Joe Cole). Tommy arrives to meet her from work, only to find she has been badly beaten by one of the gang, in a brutal bid to ensure her silence. Elise loses her child and their relationship crumbles under the weight of the resulting grief. This cruel loss kicks off a gritty tale of murderous revenge as Tommy purposely gets himself incarcerated in order to find the person who attacked Elise and bring justice to the gang who ruined their lives.
Hollyoaks in prison this isn’t, there is plenty of violence, drugs and corruption in this gritty depiction of life in a youth borstal. The characters seem slightly cartoonish and cliché at first, but as the violence ramps up so does the acting. Joe Cole excels as the cold unflappable youth, Tommy. Woefully out of his depth yet driven blindly by the need for revenge. English Frank is compelling as the loathsome, meat headed thug gang leader, Jake. He and his gang represent the failure of the penal system, as they kangaroo between crime and incarceration without fear of either. An honorable mention must also go to the brilliant Shaun Dooley as the corrupted, bitter pot smoking head warden Nash.
The moral compass for this movie is a little skewed, it deals with so many difficult subjects without really deciding which it wants to focus on. It successfully shines a light on modern youth culture, providing a violent depiction of a disaffected generation with the riots as a backdrop. How much of the insight into life in the prison is realistic or sensationalised is difficult to pin down. Thankfully there is no moral epiphany for Tommy or path to redemption for any of the characters in Offender and this fact alone keeps the drama believable and the revenge dark and uncompromising.
Some of the peripheral characters and plotting are a bit lightweight at times, but thankfully Offender is well acted and hard hitting enough to paper over its flaws.The professional production by Nick Taussag (Shank), superb cinematography and tight dialogue elevates Offender well above the rank of your average indie Brit movie.