Monday, April 27, 2009

114) Jar City (2006)

114) Jar City (2006) Dir: Baltasar Kormákur Date Released: February 2008 Date Seen: April 26th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

There's something about the dreariness of Scandinavian countries that makes for very satisfying police procedurial plots. As exemplified by Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall's "Martin Beck" series, most famous for its fourth entry, The Laughing Policeman, Scandinavian noir is home to hard-nosed policemen that track down clues between drags of omnipresent cigarettes. They mutter and curse and lash out at everyone and no one but in after these matter-of-fact shows of macho, quasi-caveman-like behavior, they do their jobs Writer/director Baltasar Kormákur's Jar City (2006), adapted from Arnaldur Indriðason 's novel by the same name, continues that tradition but this time with a more memorably realistic Mike Hammer protagonist.

Meet Erlendur Sveinsson (Ingvar E. Sigurðsson), a cop that shoegazes when he chainsmokes because he knows that if he looks up, he won't like what he sees. Erlendur's earned the chip on his shoulder seeing as how his home life with prodigal daughter Eva (Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir), a pregnant drug addict, is just as unrelenting as his casework. In Jar City, he's investigating the murder of Holberg (Þorsteinn Gunnarsson), a sixty year-old local connected with an unsolved cold case from the '70s. In the course of his investigation, Erlendur will interrogate Holberg's homicidal accomplice Ellidi (Theódór Júlíusson), search in vain for a rape victim, pay off his daughter's debts, exhume the corpse of a decades-long buried little girl and go in search of her missing brain. You better believe that when his partner asks him to put out his cig he tells him to "Quit whining like a sissy." 

Erlendur's a great reactionary pulp hero because he does the right thing but in his own time and way. He's a product of his bleek environment, a world where the police coroner blithely eats his lunch with the same rubber gloves that he just handled a body with. When two of Eva's user buddies try to force their way into his apartment, he breaks one of their legs, takes a deep breath, calls an ambulance for him and props up his victim's leg with a pillow from his couch. This case, steeped in bodies and another precarious father-daughter relationship, does not change his worldview but rather provides the world-weary dick with a new routine that forces him to recognize what he already knew--life, like a ripe corpse, stinks but then you hold your nose and deal with it.

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