Magnus Martens’ Jackpot (Arme Riddere, 2011) marks the latest cinematic excursion of Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbø. Based on an original story penned purposely for the screen, yet similar in both tone and texture to Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters (Hodejegerne, 2011), Martens’ dark comedy of errors is yet another example of the Scandinavian film industry’s strong ongoing relationship with the crime genre.
Setting the pace early on with an outlandish shoot-out set within a surprisingly squalid sex shop, Martens introduces us to Oscar Svendsen (Kyrre Hellum) as he emerges in front of a group of hapless policemen from underneath the corpse of a particularly ‘large’ stripper, armed with a loaded shotgun. The film’s plot relies heavily on the flashbacks that comprise Oscar’s interrogation by the film’s eccentric Detective Solør (Henrik Mestad).
We slowly learn through Oscar’s increasingly elaborate statement that he was involved in a football betting syndicate at work that pocketed him and his three colleagues just over one million krone. However, Oscar managed a local recycling plant, which hired ex convicts as factory workers, resulting in his fellow winners being a collection of undesirable acquaintances who were more than happy to do what ever it took to pocket the cash for themselves. With Oscar now the only remaining witness he must explain the events that lead to this massacre if he’s to save himself from a lengthy spell in prison.
Containing the same wildly implausible twists and turns as the Coen brothers’ Fargo (1996), it would be fair to say that Jackpot is far more of a black comedy than it is a gripping detective story. However, whilst Fargo’s endearingly eccentric narrative was built upon strong character foundations and a sharp, witty script, Marten’s film lacks any discernible charisma or charm. With each overly violent action sequence the audience slowly realises that these thinly drawn, almost cartoonish characters will remain little more than comedic foils for a film which fails to engage its audience on even the most basic of human levels.
It seems premature to assert such a statement, yet after just two major cinematic outings the dull familiarity of Nesbø’s exasperatingly amoral work has little to no lasting impression. Martens’ Jackpot works fine as a piece of midnight movie escapism, yet its absence of empathy towards its protagonists and lack of any noticeable moral compass means its little more than a unwieldy and boisterous excursion into the lowest depths of cinematic culture.