Film review: Jackpot

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Image cover for the film Jackpot

Review by Bilal Halim

Edited by Marco Cuevas-Hewitt

Film: Jackpot
Director: Magnus Martens
Running time: 90 min
Year of release: 2012
Language: Norwegian


Norwegian crime caper apes Tarantino but fails

Jackpot is a Norwegian movie, which was directed by Magnus Martens and based on a novel by Jo Nesbo. It is one of several Scandinavian crime fictions that have been recently released in both novel and film form. The movie tries to combine features of crime fiction with humorous elements to create a text reminiscent of a Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movie.

Though this mixing of genres enhanced Ritchie and Tarantino’s best work, it undermines Jackpot which is neither as darkly atmospheric as the best of the recent Scandinavian crime narratives nor is it particularly funny.

Barry Forshaw, who wrote the first English biography of the late Swedish crime novelist Steig Larsson, pointed out that part of what makes Scandinavian crime fiction engaging is that it intrigues an Anglo audience by describing a dark underworld lying beneath an apparently utopian society. He says that ‘we used to think that the Scandinavian countries had it all sorted – nobody had sexual inhibitions, that immigrants came to those countries and were just seamlessly integrated and so on. But now, these [texts] show us, of course, that Scandinavia has all of the problems we have…Some of the appeal is in seeing these countries we used to think of as perfect and we’re seeing now all of the cracks in their social fabric.’ 1

It is these imperfections – so well-exemplified recently by the accusations in Sweden against Julian Assange and the crimes of Norwegian Anders Breivik – behind the façade of peaceful, progressive Social Democracy that engage Anglo audiences. Failing to deliver on these terms prevents Jackpot from fulfilling its promise. The film’s use of slapstick humour and stereotypically bumbling cops undermines its darker elements and renders it a run-of-the-mill crime comedy. Further problematising this is the fact that the film is just not funny enough to justify the shift in tone.

Despite this, Martens’ direction and the performances of actors Kyrre Hellum and Henrik Mestad, who portray the protagonist and an investigating police officer respectively, are sound. Jackpot also has an interesting narrative structure; it is largely set in a police interrogation room and the plot unfolds through flashbacks revealed during the questioning that Hellum’s character undergoes.

These elements combine to make it a well-made and well-acted film. Nonetheless, Jackpot struggles to overcome its own misuse of humour. Irvine Welsh, the Scottish author famous for writing Trainspotting, recently argued that the successful Scandinavian crime writers of recent years have ‘effectively globally rebrand[ed] (at least in the eyes of outsiders) an entire genre.’  Jackpot, despite its Norwegian origins, is distinct from this. It does not feel like a new or exciting rebranding of the crime genre to this outsider. Rather, it feels like a myriad of other comedic crime capers full of familiar clichés.  

  1. https://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/04/13/whats-so-special-about-scandinavian-crime-wave-barry-forshaw-explains-bleeding-cool/