Known though they are for their bleak crime dramas, the Nords aren’t particularly renowned for their sense of humor.
It’s only half surprising then that Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance is both very, very bleak and very funny.
After his only son is found dead of a supposed overdose, Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) immediately sets out for revenge. After all, the police are either apathetic or simply comic, and Nils seems like a man in need of a purpose. His years of operating a snow-plough, running back and forth over the same route through the Norwegian wilderness, may have gained him a Citizen of the Year award, but it’s done little for his marriage or sense of self.
While Nils proves a surprisingly effective avenger – his ability to throw a punch is more Taken than Blue Ruin – he fails to realize the complex situation in which he’s entangling himself. A fragile peace exists between the local class of criminals responsible for his son’s death – led by ponytail-wearing, perpetually tense vegan Greven (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) – and the Serbian interlopers under Papa (Bruno Ganz), and Nils’ actions are about to throw it wildly out of whack.
The hangdog Skarsgård is an odd fit for an action hero, but there’s a solidness to him that belies his advancing years. With his small, glinting eyes and his fleshy expansive face, he creates a portrait of a stolid man subtly coming alive with the prospect of something to do. The film’s original title, “Kraftidioten”, suggests him to be, well, a prize idiot – and indeed he makes more than a few rookie errors – but, for all that, Nils is a difficult man to dislike.
Most of the rest of the cast, however, is composed of a collection of types: a gangster odd couple discussing the relative quality of Norwegian prisons; Borgen’s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen slightly wasted as a self-righteous yummy mummy. While the desolate, snowy milieu is right out of Fargo – as is the gleefully macabre comedy – there’s also a touch of Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths (not least in the general lack of interesting female characters).
For the presence of a certain funeral device and the wonder of Skarsgård and Bruno Ganz – the gnarled Downfall star conveys volumes from beneath a furry šajkača – In Order of Disappearance is well worth braving the encroaching autumn.