DVD Review: ‘Northwest’

The second crime thriller to come from director Michael Noer (whose previous film, 2010’s R: Hit First, Hit Hardest, was a collaboration between himself and fellow Dane Tobias Lindholm), Northwest (2013) does little that’s new but still does enough to grip and occasionally thrill over the course of its necessarily brief runtime. Taking place within the Nordvest suburb of Copenhagen, notorious for its high crime rates and relative poverty, Noer’s dark tale of low-level drug dealers and seedy sex traffickers is at its best when at home with the film’s two shaven-headed brothers, the eldest of whom quickly finds himself seduced by the types of luxuries a life of crime can offer a willing footsoldier with “balls of steel”.

Rising star Gustav Dyekjær Giese plays eighteen-year-old protagonist Casper, who lives in the infamous Nordvest suburb of Copenhagen with his mother Olivia (Lene Maria Christensen), brother Andy (Gustav’s real-life sibling Oscar Dyekjær Giese) and sister Freja (Annemieke Bredahl Peppink). Casper makes ends meet as a small-time housebreaker, selling his wares to neighbourhood fence Jamal (Dulfi Al-Jabouri). However, when a rival gangster, Bjørn (a suitably menacing Roland Møller), offers Caspar better terms in exchange for a top-of-the-range TV and sound system, our man is easily drawn into betraying his former employer. Caught between two warring factions, whilst striving to keep his illegal activities from his single mother, it’s not long before the spinning plates begin to fall.

Noer does his best to make Casper a sympathetic figure, although it’s never quite clear just how impoverished his own family is (they own a reasonably-sized house and don’t seem to be struggling financially). Perhaps, then, the young Dane is lured into criminality simply because of the crowd he runs with, thus opening the door for the more impressionable Andy to walk through. Either way it’s all convincing enough, expertly shot by experienced cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck (Borgen, The Killing). This is a Denmark of greying suburbs rather than snowy vistas, where lives are lived out (or rather wasted) in dank basements away from prying eyes. Racial tensions simmer away under the fabric of society, with Jamal and his crew as untrusting of white Danes as has become customary in reverse. And yet Caspar, for a time, is the one able to move between, more interested in the colour of money than the colour of his employers.

Daniel Green