Hans Petter Moland's 2014 film finds pitch-black comedy in a quest for vengeance. Info
A slick exercise in cinematic style and a fresh, absurdist tale of revenge, Hans Petter Moland's deadpan pitch-black comedy In Order Of Disappearance (2014) offers icy thrills, unexpected humor, and cartoonish carnage. The inimitable Stellan Skarsgård stars as Nils Dickman, a taciturn, impassive, and somber snowplow driver in a remote Norwegian town who has just been named "Citizen of the Year" for his tireless, Sisyphean devotion to keeping the roads clear.
When his son dies of an apparent heroin overdose, he sets out to find those responsible for the young man's demise. In the process of taking his vengeance, however, Dickman inadvertently exposes a complex web of international drug trafficking. He pursues not only the actual murderer, but also his employer—a pretentious, militantly vegan crime boss known as "the Count" (Pål Sverre Hagen)—and the various intermediaries who facilitated the lethal transaction.
A relentless, cold-blooded killing machine, Dickman methodically dispatches the criminals, one by one, with the same single-minded determination that he applies to removing snow. The Count mistakenly blames a rival Serbian gang for the deaths, thus igniting a bloody, cyclical war. As the body count piles up, the executions become increasingly imaginative and brutal. Each deceased character receives a black-and-white epitaph screen with their name and corresponding religious symbol. With an eye for ethereal, monochromatic compositions that frequently veer toward abstraction, cinematographer Philip Øgaard exquisitely captures the stark, wintry landscapes of the film's setting, thus accentuating the grisly, aestheticized violence and the existential emptiness of Dickman's quest.
Since the release of Moland's film, critics have observed how, on paper, it sounds like a perfect vehicle for actor Liam Neeson, star of the Taken franchise. Indeed, In Order Of Disappearance has recently been remade in English by the original director with Neeson playing the protagonist role, renamed Nels Coxman. The new film, titled Cold Pursuit, will come out in the United States this February. —Jason Fuhrman