Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ole Borendal
Stars: Ulrich Thomsen, Nicolas BRo, Mia Lynne, Lene Maria Christensen, Soren Malling, Marcin Dorocinski, Gwen Taylor.
Nordic noir has always been darker and more twisted than American or British crime stories which probably explains its popularity. Small Town Killers is the latest Nordic crime film to emerge from Denmark, and despite its rather nasty premise it deftly mixes black comedy with screwball elements and is something of an unexpected treat.
Edward (Ulrich Thomsen, a regular in the films of Susanne Bier) and Ib (Nicolas Bro, from tv series The Bridge, etc) are bricklayers, who take under the table cash payments for their shoddy work and they manage to stretch the jobs out as long as possible. They have plenty of money stashed away and lead a relatively good life. They are known as “dumb and dumber” by the local cop Heinz (Soren Malling). But they have grown unhappy with their wives and the venal ways. Gritt (Mia Lynne) and Ingrid (Lene Maria Christensen) spend a lot of time at salsa classes with their gay instructor, and like spending their money. Edward and Ib decide that they want to divorce their wives. But when they are told how much a divorce would cost them in terms of alimony, they decide they want a cheaper option.
While drunk one night at the local pub, Edward decides to hire a hitman. He finds an online site and contracts a Russian hitman for the job. The next morning when they sober up and realise what they have done, they try to cancel the contract. But it is too late. The website has disappeared and a Russian hitman named Igor is on his way. Edward and Ib decide to meet Igor at the airport and tell him that the contract has been cancelled. But Igor (Marcin Dorocinski) turns out to be a drunken buffoon, an alcoholic whose arms are tattooed with the number of people he has killed. He only wants to put unhappy people out of their misery.
When the wives discover their scheme, they do they only thing they can think of and hire a hitman of their own. They get Mrs Nippleworthy (Gwen Taylor), an aging and very polite English matron with a penchant for exotic but very deadly poisons. She is the anti-Nanny McPhee who, despite her manners and calm demeanour, is possibly a little insane. Soon the bodies are piling up in the quiet little town of Nibe where nothing much ever happens.
There is some great chemistry between Bro and Thomsen as the put-upon husbands and miserable sad sacks. Bro finds some big laughs with his performance as the sexually frustrated Ib, while Thomsen is great as the sullen and unhappy Edward. Lynne and Christensen also are fine as the equally unhappy and frustrated wives. Dorocinski and Taylor have fun as the hired killers, with Taylor especially memorable as the deceptively sweet natured Mrs Nippleworthy.
Having briefly flirted with Hollywood, Danish director Ole Borendal (NIghtwatch, etc) is a dab hand at genre films, and here he keeps things moving at a fairly brisk pace throughout the film’s brief running time of 85 minutes. Borendal has created a farcical setup that delivers some great pitch-black humour, even though it is a little broad at times. While Small Town Killers is never quite as funny as the best British farces, Borendal throws a lot of ideas at the screen, and many of them stick. Much of the humour is delightfully politically incorrect, and also a touch misogynistic. The scene in which Ib and Edward appear in drag though is a little embarrassing. And while amusing enough, the characters seem a little cliched and stereotyped, especially Igor, the perpetually drunk Russian hitman.
The film has an upbeat bleak aesthetic, which is enriched by the cinematography of Dan Laustsen and Linda Wassberg, which captures the flat but picturesque landscape of the small-town location.