Fantasia 2012 Review: JACKPOT

Oscar Svendson is in deep trouble.  Picked up by the police at a strip-bar with a dead fat woman laying on top of him, one of a dozen corpses littering the place, and a still-warm shot-gun in his hands, he has a lot of 'splainin to do!  And in a Kaiser Soze act of raconteur, story-tell he does.  How does a used tanning bed, a pile of monopoly money and a freshly painted wall factor into a robbery gone wrong?  In this twisty and revealing Jo Nesbø (Headhunters, the Harry Hole detective series) penned story the cops are competent, and the criminals are ... not so much.  It is a sordid and silly and incredibly violent tale of meek Oscar, who manages a Christmas tree manufacturing company which employes ex-cons for the labour.  These burly but not to bright fellows, Thor, Danny and Billy, do not give too much of a damn about safety, sobriety or even paying attention to their employer.  But they need a few extra dollars in their footy-pool scheme involving a dodgy website's promise of turning welfare cases into millionaires.  When the bet impossibly pays off (thanks to advice from a cute blonde waitress) the boys - who cannot do the arithmetic of even dividing the million+ kroner winnings by four - decide they should lower the number of folks in the pool and get more of a share.  Corpse disposal shenanigans combine with those special kind of complete utter misunderstandings that sit somewhere on the spectrum between Fargo and Weekend at Bernies with a little of Fabián Bielinsky's Nine Queens thrown in for good measure.  Jackpot  is bloody as hell with no fears of severing body parts and splattering victims and perpetrators alike; a very large bosomed lady falling in slow motion from a shotgun blast is played for laughs.

What Elmore Leonard was in the 1990s, Jo Nesbø is rapidly becoming go to author for a particular type of snappy crime story.  Like the meticulous and consistently surprising Headhunters adaptation by Morden Tyldum, Magnus Martin's Jackpot captures the brilliant combination of thoughtful planning and convenient co-incidence that is Nesbø's idiom.  The latter case throws away most of the emotional journey in favour of absurd kinetic comedy and a more overt cat-and-mouse game with the audience (via the intense Michael Biehn lookalike detective played by Henrik Mestad.)  It is kind of breathtaking the amount of plot, situation and character farce that is accomplished in its slim 82 minute runtime.  The screenplay is reminiscent of the ones that Anders Thomas Jensen saves for himself to direct with Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. To go into the plot is to spoil the thing, but the film his amusingly self-aware of its ridiculous, violently fun, mechanics to the point of putting it textually on screen.  When Oscar explains to new employee Danny (who has the longest rap sheet of the bunch, has a Robert Carlyle in Trainspotting bottled intensity) the mechanism of how you put in plastic pellets into the grinder and 'through a chemical mechanism nobody understands' fully formed artificial christmas trees emerge with a pneumatic "plthonk" out the other end, well it is an indication of the self awareness of the whole affair.  It is not smug about it, merely pragmatic - much like the detective on the case and his peculiar interrogation technique.  Like many of the details in Oscar's story, if you blink or look down to grab a handful of popcorn or try to project too far ahead, you'll probably miss details that are either clues or easter eggs.  

Nothing too deep, but relentlessly entraining and darkly funny Jackpot is too stylish of a good time to pass up.  So grab your smuggled in tallboy of beer and keep your brain turned on and alert when you dance with Nesbø on screen - Christmas comes early.
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