Sweden and its neighbours may be known at the moment for their dark, brooding mysteries so you might think it a mystery in itself why, Headhunters and Jackpot aside, the rich vein of black comedies that abound in the Nordic Noir canon don’t get as much recognition. Thankfully, Felix Herngren’s adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s novel goes some way to rectifying that.
After climbing out of his retirement home window the day he turns 100, the dynamite-loving Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) decides to head to the nearest destination his meagre pocket change will allow. Picking up a suitcase on the way it’s only when he discovers it contains 50 million euros that things take some very unusual turns.
Many of them are a delight (the brashness with which our unwitting hero, or anti-hero even, brushes off murder), some unusual (an elephant in the middle of the tale) and others bizarre (Alan Ford’s cockney gang boss feels out of place).
However for every uneven moment there are others which turn out to be oddly entertaining as Karlsson narrates the story of his life, Forrest Gump-like, in the midst of the present tale as it unravels. Taking in all kinds of unusual encounters with the likes of Franco and Stalin and the various dynamite-related escapades that led him there, it’s these moments that really stand out in the telling.
A shame then that, while supposedly a dark comedy, Herngren focuses on slapstick too often as if distrustful of his material, concept and cast. There’s a fabulous story in there somewhere, that feels as if it too got up, climbed out of the window and then disappeared somewhere in the sweet but oddly unsatisfying tale that ensues.