“You pick a banana, and all is well,” says one Serbian criminal to another in Hans Petter Moland’s latest, ‘In Order of Disappearance.’ It turns out this is far from the case for many characters in this well-crafted Norwegian crime thriller comedy, who find themselves on the unexpected end of a vengeful dad’s mission as coldly amusing as the tundra they live in.
Like a Norwegian Tarantino, Moland builds his story with a brilliant death tally alongside a main character and criminal cast never short of strange behavior. Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) is a simple snow plower recently recognized for his community duties as ‘Citizen of the Year.” Never feeling the cause of his son’s sudden heroin overdose and death soon after to be an accident, Nils and his machine seek to get every answer leading to the source, amateurishly clearing his path along the way. With “The Count” (Pål Sverre Hagen) catching on to the disappearances of his drug trafficking employees, his riling idiosyncrasies escalate as he gains Serbian enemies as well along the way.
‘In Order of Disappearance’ has a dooming mortality rate that suits it, but perhaps its greatest feat is the attention to detail aside the dark themes. As each death comes with a gong of sorts that mounts the list, the name of the newly deceased shown on screen like a drug war ‘Hunger Games,’ this working predictability makes room for the subtleties that entertain us most. Moland creates moments and atmosphere that develop these distinct and well-played characters in their snowy country.
Much occurs that is handled uniquely. Nils’ wife leaves in marital frustration and grief and the note she’s left reads nothing. The totally blank sheet of paper you can imagine speaks to him as “I have nothing to say to you” makes the poor guy slump with no solution, but soon he gets up, downed in snow gear, and continues straight to his hell-bent mission. Nils’ tactic of disposing of bodies, eventually to get to the one who is to blame the most, is to roll them in a chain sheet and throw them over a waterfall, explaining with confidence it is so they sink and the little fish will eventually munch at the bodies. The Count happens to be a vegan on a juice kick who’s upset when his son’s regimen of five fruits a day is disrupted, but he also brings coffee to an execution, using the coffee carrier as an ineffective blood shield. The Count throws a rage in a bathtub and decorates his home with horrible hand sculptures and chairs shaped as faces. When presenting a peace offering to angry Serbians, whose group has gotten caught in the dilemma, an apparent Norwegian way is to kill your own employee and present it in a pink cake box.
With tight dialogue and pacing, good laughability, and anticipating shoot-out excitement, ‘In Order of Disappearance’ mixes the unearthed badass of a generally average Joe with drug dealing egos against what seems like the snowiest place on Earth. You’d think the ridiculous weather would get in the way, but the story and its enemies plow through, Nils paving the initial path. ‘In Order of Disappearance’ is just plain good cinema.