Jackpot (2014)


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Starring Kyrre Hellum, Mads Ousdal, Henrik Mestad, Arthur Berning

Directed by Magnus Martens

Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum) is a man with a problem.  Awaking underneath the body of a dead, obese stripper and clutching a shotgun, he’s the prime suspect in eight deaths at a strip club called the Pink Heaven. Despite the intimidating tactics of Detective Solør (Henrik Mestad), he maintains his innocence, recounting his tale that begins with being coerced into joining a soccer pool with a trio of bumbling ex-cons who work for Svendson at Evergreen, a company that specializes in rehabilitating ex-cons.

There’s Thor (Mads Ousdal), the childhood friend of Svendson; Billy (Arthur Berning), the violent new hire with a short fuse who isn’t above threatening his boss with a nailgun on the first day; and Treschow (Andreas Cappelen), the silent type with a perpetual drunken smile on his face. After Trine, a local waitress, convinces Svendson to change the original bet, a nail-biter of a match results in the quartet ultimately winning 1.7 kroner. After exhausting their supply of alcohol, Svendson runs to the strip club Pink Heaven to purchase some alcohol, but upon his return, he’s discovered that Thor and Billy killed Treschow, claiming he attacked them.

And so begins one of the worst nights of Svendson’s life in Jackpot, the Norwegian crime thriller from director Magnus Martens. Martens, who wrote the script based on a story by crime writer Jo Nesbø, has imbued in this darkly comic crime caper enough twists, turns, and laughs to make you forget that it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Echoes of The Usual Suspects reverberate throughout as Martens goes back and forth between past and present, with Svendson explaining the unlikely and seemingly fabricated situations in which he routinely found himself. The story moves at a brisk pace, but more importantly, you’re guessing; the events following the death of Treschow are never truly predictable, with each new set-up increasing the stakes and keeping Solør from simply tossing him in the slammer.

Much of this is made possible through the decidedly unique characters. Hellum’s confused take on a man thrust into a position he had no desire to be in elevates the film above its seemingly contrived plot, while his cohorts in crime keep things humorous throughout. All of this keeps you engaged until the very end, where a clean conclusion is given the twist we’ve all come to expect that ultimately causes the momentum to peter out with a roll of the eyes. Your mileage may vary, but it felt like one of those instances akin to the conclusion of a certain French thriller that made everything that came before it feel… mildly cheap.

It should be noted that Jackpot is not a horror film, if only because its focus is on the caper rather than instilling in the viewer any sense of fear. But Martens shoehorns in enough violence and blood and decapitations to allow it to drift ever so slightly into horror comedy territory. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets an American touch, as it’s the sort befitting a remake. All in all, it’s a fun little film and definitely worthy of a watch.

3 1/2 out of 5

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