JW has served three years of his prison sentence so far after being arrested for smuggling cocaine. Once a gifted business student at the Stockholm School of Economics, he is now struggling to move his life in the right direction - a feat that becomes harder when he is reunited with former partner-in-crime Mrado Slovovic. Having avoided trouble behind bars, he is being trusted to take unsupervised leave, however he has absolutely no intention of returning. Mrado phones him from the prison to inform him that there’s a stash of cash belonging to their mafia rival Radovan Kranjic, but JW is having doubts about involving himself in the criminal world when it becomes clear that many people will get hurt. Meanwhile, JW attempts to distract himself by resuming his life of parties, drugs and alcohol.
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It has taken a few years for this Swedish crime thriller to break out internationally. In fact, two sequels have already been made. Despite the rather standard plot and characters, this is stylish, punchy filmmaking. Leading man Joel Kinnaman is now a global star thanks to The Killing, and he's about to play RoboCop in a remake.
Kinnaman plays JW, a poor but smart guy who reinvents himself at university as someone who's posh and well-connected. But a sexy new girlfriend (Henni) has no idea that he has actually made his cash working for a local Arab gangster (Suvakci). When word emerges that Latino drug dealer Jorge (Varela) has escaped from prison, JW is sent to make a deal with him in exchange for his contact list. But a rival Serbian thug (Cukic) also wants to get his hands on Jorge, so he sends his muscled goon Mrado (Mrsic). And as the two gangs become locked in a battle, JW, Mrado and Jorge realise that they're just pawns in a bigger war.
The film centres on these three lower-level tough guys, adding one personal detail to each: JW deceiving his girlfriend and her family, Mrado suddenly having to take responsibility for his 8-year-old daughter (Stojanov), Jorge trying to help his pregnant sister (Whittembury). These details help add a personal level to the violent action, but all three of the female characters are thinly defined stereotypes, so the emotional connections never quite ring true. Much more interesting is the male bonding between these three men who don't remotely trust each other.
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Forensic photographer Jonas (Berthelsen) narrates his own story, Sunset Blvd-style, through a series of flashbacks. After rescuing the helpless, beautiful Julia (Hemse), he allows her family to think he's her boyfriend. He knows he should tell the truth, but the mystery is too inviting, and when she wakes from her coma, her memory and vision cloud her understanding. The problem is that Jonas is married to Mette (Fich), and as he obsesses over Julia he begins to forget who he really is.
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Bornedal's sap is Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen), a police crime scene photographer who lives with his wife and two children in some dead-soul Copenhagen high-rise that he can't afford and still smells of paint. It's a grim life, photographing dead people while his colleagues make self-consciously bad jokes and his midlife crisis churns in overdrive. But Bornedal -- after a stylized opening sequence that tosses out a trio of teaser scenes, including one showing Jonas bleeding to death in the rain -- doesn't do much with Jonas' ennui before throwing the other woman at him and cranking up the noir. It's a whopper of an entry, with Julia's car smashing into Jonas's, after which she slips into a coma and awakes with no memory to find Jonas saying that he's her lover Sebastian, whom her family had heard about but never met. In the first of several hard-to-swallow developments, Jonas is mistaken by Julia's family for Sebastian when he shows up at the hospital to check up on her, and he never corrects them -- he's got a fatale to fall for.
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JW has served three years of his prison sentence so far after being arrested for...
It has taken a few years for this Swedish crime thriller to break out internationally....
Starting as a quiet drama about identity and obsession, along the lines of While You...