A vivid and energetic dark comedy about a lifeless and lazy remnant of Generation X, the Icelandic import "101 Reykjavik" begins with its anti-hero tromping to the top of a mountain in the snow where he plans to smoke a cigarette and freeze to death because life has become too much for him to cope with.
Scruffy layabout Hlynur (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) is so willfully aimless and irresponsible that he can't cope with much of anything beyond living with his mother and surfing web porn all day. So the chaos he brings upon himself by impregnating mom's wild lesbian girlfriend (Spanish actress Victoria Abril) is way too much -- I mean it would require energy, resolution and, god forbid, responsibility!
With a firm hold on the film's pungent sense of humor, director Baltasar Kormakur sets this stage then rewinds to trace Hlynur's path of ambition-free self-destruction, deftly crafting a self-deprecating sympathy for the guy along the way. Hlynur knows he's a zero ("My face is just sort of a frame around my glasses," he says in the movie's running commentary) but then, he thinks he lives in a world of zeroes and he's the only one with the courage to admit it and embrace it. Dragged to a family Christmas dinner -- where the elder generation enthusiastically watches a video of last year's Christmas dinner -- Hlynur opines "I'd rather go to a funeral. One less idiot."
So when his mother's free-spirited young "friend" from Spain comes to stay with them, Hlynur finds her a sexy and stimulating break from the self-imposed drudgery of his existence. They hang out, get drunk and -- whoops.
"101" boasts a catchy synth-industrial soundtrack by Damon Albarn (from Blur) and Einar Orn (from the Sugarcubes), and a vivid sense of place that builds a necessary personal warmth into the glacial setting with, for example, arguments that take place inside cars that are sliding about on icy roads.
Kormakur -- who adapted the screenplay from a novel of the same title -- also plies the picture with richly morose character traits that should make his hero unlikable (giving cigarettes to kids, avoiding every girl he's slept with at the incestuously small local pub). But Gudnason's richly ironic performance is appealingly caustic in spite of the Hlynur's utter lack of purpose and gross irresponsibility.
Abril ("High Heels," "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!") provides plenty of personality as well with her bewitching but egoless sexuality. And the film is rounded out by distinctive performances from Hanna Maria Karlsdottir as the mother and Olafur Darri Olafsson as a clingy girlfriend Hlynur has lost interest in.
"101 Reykjavik" is forgettable sex farce fare and has nagging problems, like a sloppy time-line, that keep it from soaring. But it is a funny look at modern love through the eyes and culture of a slothfully detached and uniquely 21st Century male archetype.