“I’m just a guy who keeps a strip of civilization open through the wilderness for the people.” So says Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgård) in In Order of Disappearance. He drives a snowplow in the wild parts of Norway, and he is an immigrant to the country he now works in. He is successful, his life is peaceful, and all is well. Until the day his wife gets a call, informing them that their son is dead. A drug overdose, they are told.
Nils doesn’t believe it, and he is right not to. Soon his friend’s son shows up, informing Nils that it was his fault, that he stole some cocaine and Nils’ son died for it. So, rather than kill himself–his first plan of action–Nils decides to seek some revenge. Then comes just about the blackest comedy you will see this year.
In Order of Disappearance is a quality dark comedy. Here’s some: the big bad brings his minions coffee in a carrying tray, then uses the carrying tray to block the blood-splatter of the man he executes. Hilarious.
No really. It is. It just also happens to be some dark as shit violence in the midst of a Norwegian Noir thriller that escalates into a full Scandinavian gang-war. There’s lightness at times, the local cops, for example, provide comic fodder (as local cops are generally good for), but the violence carries its own humor, and it’s as black as it comes.
Director Hans Petter Moland packs his movie is full of brutal physical violence–not just gunshots but landed punches and stranglings and, well, the rest. The blooy noses, and faces fit the stoic landscapes and the cold winds and the constant, driving snow plows. Revenge like this comes with a body count (helpfully tallied on-screen), but Moland avoids adding to his body count with a quick bullet to the noodle. He gives his revenger some pleasure, and in doing so, the audience finds some sick joy, too. At least until that banging conclusion.
If In Order of Disappearance sounds like a fun revenge romp, it is. Mostly, anyway. But there’s a bunch of other stuff too. Marriages that are struggling, identities that are being lost, children that are being neglected. These stories are needed in a movie like this violent and single-minded. Some of them are funny. The whole, “There’s no sunny state that needs welfare,” bit is quite hilarious. Others are surprising; I’ll leave them for you to discover. But they seem more like schoolwork, filling the time between short, rapid bursts of excitement.
Thankfully, In Order of Disappearance stars Stellan Skarsgård, who can pretty much do anything asked of him on camera. The stoic Swede has made his way through American and international cinema and in countless films quietly turns in knockout performances, big and small. Here, Skarsgård is asked to anchor the film with enough emotional weight to carry forward what is really a sleek, technical, and highly enjoyable bit of revenge cinema. He succeeds.