Over the last few years Norwegian author Jo Nesbø has shot to fame on the back of a series of successful crime novels – principally involving Oslo detective, Harry Hole. Last year saw the first two films based on his stories arrive in the UK; slick thriller Headhunters (Hodejegerne, 2011) was based on one of his novels and Jackpot (Arme Riderre, 2011) on an original idea for the screen. The latter, directed by Magnus Martens, now arrives on DVD from Metrodome Distribution. Retaining the crime elements for which the author is known, this blackly comic effort is something of a damp squib.
Peculiar police inspector, Solør (Henrik Mestad), arrives in a sordid sex shop-come-strip club full of bloodied bodies, bullets in the wall and a lone man waking up beneath the corpse of a stripper with a shotgun in hand. That man, Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum), is hauled in to relay the events leading up to the x-rated massacre. His statement asserts that he and three colleagues, all of whom were ex-cons, won just under two million krone on an accumulator football bet. Crooks being crooks, a four-way split isn’t ideal and blood is soon spilt while individual shares begin to grow.
The events become ever more implausible as the chaotic and elaborate account continues bringing to mind of a wealth of better and more original murderous black comedies. Eschewing tension and thrills in favour of laughs, Jackpot looks to combine continued farce with offbeat characters and gross-out humour drenched in blood. Some of these moments do enough to raise a smile or the occasional chortle, but they largely fall flat.
The banter is not helped by a drab script and a cast of characters that features nobody likeable for the audience to get behind. The same accusations can be levelled at Nesbø’s Headhunters but comparatively, the lead in that film is entirely sympathetic. This means that much that may have been funny is not, and that it is difficult to find any hook with which to create tension and suspense.
All this leaves the plot as the factor which needs to elevate the film, but regrettably, it hardly does. Featuring a recognisable plot device which always seems to wind up the same way, Jackpot’s ending is obvious from ten minutes in and the twists and turns along the way manage to divert but never truly enthral. Oh, for a screenplay more wit and significantly more cunning. As it stands, a severed thumb in the eye is about as good as it gets.
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