DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BLOODY ANGELS (1732 HOTTEN) (director/writer: Karin Julsrud; screenwriters: Finn Gjerdrum/Kjetil Indregard; cinematographer: Philip Øgaard; editor: Sophie Hesselberg; music: Kjetil Bjerkestrand/Magne Furuholmen; cast: Reidar Sørensen (Nicholas Ramm), Gaute Skjegstad (Niklas), Trond Høvik (Holger), Stig Henrik Hoff (Dwayne), Jon Øigarden (Baste Hartmann), Laila Goody (Victoria), Simon Norrthon (Cato), Kjersti Holmen (Andrea Hartmann), Ingar Helge Gimle (Raymond Hartmann), Bjørn Floberg (Priest), Kåre Conradi (Finken Hartmann), Beate Bruland (Katarina Munch), Bjørn Sundquist (Bartender); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Finn Gjerdrum; USA Films; 1998-Norway-in Norwegian with English subtitles)

 
"An oddball serious dark comedy shot as a social satire fable."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An oddball serious dark comedy shot as a social satire fable by director Karin Julsrud, in her intriguing feature film debut. In its weirdest and most disturbing moments it seems like a Norwegian version of David Lynch's Twin Peaks or Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Among its many faults, the characters are unappealing (though a few may warrant sympathy through certain contrivances), there's no sane way out of the plot's dilemma and there are too many contrivances. The director wants to make us aware in this harshly observed crime drama that 'violence begets violence,' that children follow the examples of adults and that one shouldn't play God and be above the law of the land. Julsrud and writers Finn Gjerdrum and Kjetil Indregard frame their grisly crime story around a couple of brutal murders in the wintry sticks. In one revealing scene, they let us see the obstruction of justice in a murder case by an entire hick town, as the bartender at a popular pub tell the lead investigator “What if we’re all in on it?” Though it's a well-made, well-acted and visually pleasing film, it's unpleasant, the story is too exaggerated for straight drama and the violence is sickening.

Ace detective from Oslo, the world weary Nicholas Ramm (Reidar Sørensen), is sent to the redneck snowbound mountain town of Hotten, where a little Down Syndrome girl, Katarina Munch, has been raped and murdered some four months ago, and one of two brothers, Finken Hartmann, suspected by the locals as being guilty has just been found drowned in the river. The other brother, Baste Hartmann (Jon Øigarden), is missing but soon surrenders to the city cop.

The close-knit townies look upon Nicholas as an intruder from the outside, someone in their way who doesn't relate to them, as they are sure that the brothers from a misfit family did the crime and spread the word that the 'angels' will get revenge. The thuggish locals band together, with full support from the small inbred community, and continuously harass the unorthodox detective, who finds no support in town as they slash the tires of his luxury car, pour beer over him, give him ugly stares (at the local bar, the church run by a smarmy priest and at the police station), and even administer a punishing beating with one of the redneck policeman (Stig Henrik Hoff) involved. The thugs also take it out on the unpopular Hartmann family, castrating the father (Ingar Helge Gimle) and constantly picking on the more sensitive piano playing 11-year-old younger brother named Niklas (Gaute Skjegstad), the detective's namesake and the only person who doesn’t resent his presence. The townies relentlessly bully Niklas at school, kill his cat, cut up his soccer ball and taunt him everywhere he goes until he cracks soon after his namesake cracks.

The female director goes out of her way to shoot an uncomfortable film about mob think (replete with a surprising ambivalent ending, that gets wrapped up in an unconvincing way as if to fit in with the filmmaker's agenda) that shows that vigilante justice, even if gets the right criminals, cannot be used to replace the law. But it does so in an unusually strange and irritating arty way, that makes use of shocking scenarios and a weird deadpan humor to tell its sicko tale. Not for all tastes (like mine), but nevertheless a powerful first effort that might evoke comparisons to Aki Kaurismäki. It also has a fitting eerie moody musical sound thanks partly to a-ha’s Magne Furuholmen and the spellbinding performance of 'When the Saints Come Marching In' by the church choir of men at a pivotal moment of the film.

REVIEWED ON 4/16/2009       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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