onsdag 22 februari 2017


An all-female remake of Bloodsport, you say? Directed by Chris Nahon ( Kiss of The Dragon)?
I was  intrigued.  And  I ended up liking it a lot. 

Amy Johnston, plays Jane and when we first meet her, she works as a waitress and unfortunatley is constantly hassled for being a woman who happens to be easy on the eyes. She gets fired from the job because she doesn´t take shit from perverts. Also, her father  disappeared when he entered the deadly martial arts tournament Kumite eighteen years ago  And now that she got time on her hands. Instead of pleasing customers, she might as well please herself for once ( that came out wrong). By finding out what happened to him going to Hong Kong and participate in this exclusive and shady tournament.

At the same time a rivalry between two female kung fu masters ( Shu and Wei) are tasked with taking up prodigees to fight for them to determine which one of them is the best. The fights between them in the last Kumite ended up a draw so it´s  decided to let them fight through proxies be the way to determine who is the best of the best. 

So, there is the Bloodsport formula sprinkled with the kung fu classic The Odd Couple starring Sammo Hung. It  is a pretty good use of formulas, I would say. The rivalry between Shu and Wei  and the reason behind it is explored thorughout the film. It gives the story a bit more layers and it feels like an attempt of making a B-movie with an actual story that is not entirely uninteresting

Jane finds a mentor in  Shu, who agrees to train her. Meanwhile, evil bitch Wei finds another diamond in the rough so the film parallels their development. Shu and Wei will fight using proxies. Kind of like the kung fu masters of The Odd Couple.

It is indeed a Bloodsport movie as several key elements from that film finds itself into this film. We get to see the fights between all the contestants in a montage. 
Though the montages lack a distinct 80´s rocking soundtrack! There is also a female version of Bolo Yeungs classic villain Chong Li and a moment in which the Chong Li character kills  a friend of Jane.

There are small  moments of light humour injected in thefilm that help strengthen the bond between Jane and Shu and details like that elevates it  from your standard productionline action film. It is clearly made by fans of the genre. And it is. Lady Bloodfight is written and prduced by Hong Kong actionfilm expert Bey Logan which gives the film more credit I think.

Usually female on-screen fighting is mostly presented in a way so that the girls doing the fighting stays pretty looking ( Charlies Angels) but here Amy Johnston gets messed up a lot and put through the ringer throughout the film.

It is pretty uncomfortable to watch. But I think it is great to see women being allowed to be presented as ferocious warriors and not just pretty doll faces to look at .

There might also even be some elements of Undisputed in there with the puppetmaster arranger who profits from the tournament through fixed fights. So there are a lot of familiar tropes that has been constructed into a really enjoyable martial arts vehicle for Amy Johnsson. Johnston who has made herself a career doing stunts for big ass superhero movies. Now she gets to act, and does it decently compared to other female martial arts movie-fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano. She projects a particular vulnerability , more reminiscient of Uma Thurmans Beatrix  Kiddo, than the other two and as a result is more relatable.

The fights were apparently choreographed by Xin Xin Xiong, a veteran of Hong Kong martial arts cinema. He played Clubfoot in Once upon a Time in China 3 and even though IMDB  fails to mention it, I am fairly confident he choreographed the fights in The Musketeer from 2001

Lady Bloodfight might not revolutionize anything, but it is a solid entertaining martial arts tournament movie. And we need those. Or at least I sure do.

torsdag 16 februari 2017

John Wick (2014)

The upcoming John Wick Chapter Two made me realize I´ve never written a single sentence of this most highly regarded  art film of this generation; a man struggling with his past and whose emotions are taken the shape of gunfights. His internal struggled externalized as physical force. Very exressionistic. Very artful. And the reason why it was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, and won thirteen instead. An unprecedented event in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  Over here in Sweden it won the highly prestigous Best Direct-To-Video Award. Well enough, I guess. I still hold a grudge against those c***s***ers in charge who willingly let this gem go straight to dvd and refuse the audience a prime example of A-grade action in a superbly crafted B-movie. 

But let us set aside all the accolades and why this is such a historic milestone in Cinema and look at the mythos of John Wick. It did something new in action-cinema. It actually cared for world building. Something usually reserved for fantasy and/or science fiction.

The plot:

John Wicks wife got sick, died and left a puppy for him to care for. The puppy gets killed duringa breakin by a reckless mob boss son. The mob boss Viggo ( Mikael Nykvist) fuckin hate shis son for doing that, but does what is expected and tries to shelter his son from the upcoming storm that is Wick. The rest is just a tour de force in ass kicking. Wick is a lightning storm of anger. A snow storm of fury. A tsunami of sizzling bullets.  A sharknado of dead bodies flying through the air hitting pedestrians.

Allright that´s enough....

There is not a single moment or frame in this film that does not convey the sense of a strange off beat world. Cops does not seem like a powerful factor. It is almost entirely inhabited by criminals, We do see John use collective transportation, as they stole his Mustang he was left with a fucking Prius in his garage . He must either have felt  himself undignified driving around such a piece of shit car. Or maybe it was his wifés and as a sign of respect or grief he just did not feel comfortable driving his dead ass wifes car. It is very moving and deep and full of possible intepretation. It just goes to show how deep this film goes. It shows us, rather than tells us. We can decide what we are being shown means. As good Cinema should. Writing people on the nose is for pussies. Shooting people in the face however  is for real men. ( well...)

John is a respected citizen by both cops and criminals. Which is a rare thing in the real world. The one that upsets the balance is the dipshit son of the Russian mob boss. Rulers usually get shit sons, which is why it is so hard to create lasting dynasties. And pissing off John Wick who goes under the specifically Russian mythic name Baba Jaga,  is not a good way for your long time family plans. He should have ordered shitson Iosef The Terrible to quickly inpregnate a woman before he got wiped out. In that way Viggo might have saved the dynasty.

The hotel of assassins I like to think is inspired by Richard Starks Parker novels, whcih are actually a good example of  world building. Stark built a world of rules among thieves and in the process he crafted a unique world. The Outfit is an organization built on criminal enterprizes and resides within a hotel where no affairs can be conducted. There is a similar hotel in John Wick, but built for a league of assassins instead.

You get the sense that the world has been built around John Wick, which is a crazy sense to get, but nonetheless true, which makes this scenario and world so much more weird and stylized as a result. You know that John Wick controls it, as much as Neo controls or shapes the world of The Matrix.

That is what you feel.  One man in control of the  world. Even the cops does not want to fuck with Wick.  Wick is the centre of the world. That is usually the case with every single cookie cutter cut and paste action movies. But here it is so absurdly obvious that it has become self aware and that is what makes John Wick such a special movie.

The fights are fast, ecclectic and has a no-nonsense approach to them. The fights builds upon the legend of John Wick and even though he might not fulfll everything that is being told, you get the clear sense of someone who is single-minded and focused. The fights tell us clearly of who he is and what he is. Few action heroes live up to this. Some great uses of dutch angles conveys this in a couple of scenes. It is a daring stilistic choice but it works and they are used sparingly and tastefully.

If you thought I was done with weather metaphors you are sorely mistaken. I find it interesting how storms works itself into revenge stories. Max Payne (the game) and the Klaus Kinski classic And God said to Cain all have upcoming storms/bad weather scenarios play out in the background accompanying the protagonists trajectory of revenge,  It feels very Old Testament. I like it.

The final fight between Viggo and Wick takes place in downpouring rain. A physical, close encounter that feels  painfully sluggish  compared to the last batches of actionscenes. Wick is running out of gas. And from all the weed Viggo has been smoking he must have gotten to the stage of afterglow, because he suddenly he feels a confidence boost that he could take on John Wick!

Kids, don´t do drugs.

John Wick Chapter Two opens in Swedish Cinemas February 24th and I can´t wait to see the next chapter.

torsdag 26 januari 2017

A Touch of Zen (1968)

A Touch of Zen is one of the first truly great chinese martial arts films. A wuxia, which means a sort of heroic tale of chivalry. Swordplay movie for short. Directed by King Hu, this movie has been canonized by countless film scholars as a groundbreaking film and it was made in an era in which chinese filmmaking was considered lesser artistically.

I recently bought Eurekas bluray version. Up until now I had only seen this movie on a shitty Optimum Asia dvd with poor picture and sound. But now that I got to see it in a new fresh print with correct aspect ratio, I can only say; Wow! This is a breathtaking piece of art. Not only because of its stunning cinemtaography and use of atmosphere and mood. But the narrative and how it is told is beautifully done.

The story starts off off small, opens up and blossom like a flower throughoput the film  in a beautiful way. The plot itself consists of the usual political intrigue one would associate with periodical chinese martial arts pictures. But director King Hu paces it beautifully, framing it as a story around a humble scholar living in a rural village and how he becomes mixed up in a larger national plot , and how he finds a part to play in it.

Visually it even starts out small, with a  fly stuck in a spider web, indicating the central character is part of a larger web. Stuck in a world he has chosen to not be a part of, but ends up in it anyways.

Great, poetic opening to the film. Then we see the web engulfed in mist:

And cut to morning:

Zooms out

Revealing the rural landscape
There are several beautiful vistas established, indicating the story takes place in a desolate location, far from teh capital, where all the political intrigue ,that later on will enter this world,stems from

The village is untroduced a a series of moody shots with mist, creating a sense of isolation and mystery

A lot of mood is introduced before our main protagonist Mr Gu is introduced. A humble man who likes to draw portraits of people. A scholar not interested in the world surrounding this isolated village. but he is soon to be mixed up in a larger narrative.

I love this opening, and the first hour you get to follow his perspective and how this plot develops. It is a violent action film through the eyes of a scholar, a man of peace.

What I would like to do in this text is to establish the influences and the dialogue between Japanese and chinese cinema through this particular film. My overall point is stylistic influences from Japan, but also a mix between the two whn it comes to staging fight sequences.

First, let us look atv motion. Here is how Kurosawa creates motion in Seven Samurai:

Using a telescopic lens, the foreground with the grass, swishes and contributes with the lack of depth to create a higher sense of speed and motion than it would have had without the use of the foreground with a particular lense like this.

Look at how King Hu stages motion in a scene, a battle in a forest:. he uses the bamboo forest brilliantly with the mist contrasting the trees to really make them stand out. In a similar style he creates a sense of speed through movement, although it might be hard to tell from these particular images.

I am not sure this comes across very well, through still images, but the bamboo trees enforce the movement in a way that would not have been as visually striking if she had run unto a plain. It is not as blurry as the Kurosawa film, which could be attributed to the poor dvd copy of Seven Samurai.

Kurosawas use of movement in that example is highly dependant of a particular rhytmic editing pattern and is also a very short sequence in which the samurai rush to the rescue. Unlike this scene, which is an entire action sequence. But the use of mise-en-scene to develop speed I think is important to emphasize. And the influence of Kurosawa I think can be noticed here, even though the sequences and the purposes are different.

I also like to compare the two different editions I own, and why this is such a marvellous improvement

Earlier dvd::

New release:

It is certainly richer,more sumptuous, with the beautiful shot of two warriors in the background, shrouded in fog battling. I am not sure you can tell from these screen shots though. Trust me, it is poetic.

The fights are built  using analytical and constructive editing in tandem*(see appendix). The fights usually have a master shot, to establish the scene then cut to medium shot, but in between when there my be supernatural feats to be performed, it is created through  constructive editing. Nobody can fly for real, so usage of trampolines are used together with close ups to stitch together the illusion of flying. A primitive mode by todays standards. but is effective here.

The fights seem to work as a combination of the staccato pattern of chambara films and at the same time contain the particular brand of chinese fighting, with longer takes and a larger emphasis of exchange of blows than singular strikes.  Both the start/stop and  build up/release pattern of a samurai fight exists along the balletic movements of chinese fighting.

What I like to point out about this dialogic exchange between japanese and chinese culture is that this movie was made in an era when Japanese Cinema was considered much more developed than the chinese in Hong Kong.  Chinese production companies often hired janpanese filmmakers to make sure their products got better. And so  the influence of japanese culture on the development of chinese cinema  is one way to approach this movie.  King Hus more japanese approachh could be an indicator for chinese filmmakers to  try to elevate chinese filmmaking by using japanese standards as they were thought of as more artistic than chinese. Bruce Lee certainly thoughts so. His fights were entirely constructed through the staccato  pattern. But later the chinese developed a style through the creative filmmakers like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan and Yuen Woo-ping that would create a "Wow-factor" that no film industry in the world could compare themselves to, through sensational use of spectacular bodily movement through balletic motions, more akin to the visual spectacle from the silent cinema than through narrative driven conventions of the modern day. And through taht delvier a cinematic experince that was dynamic and unique. And still to this day can be felt.


*analytical editing is the mode of how to clearly visually communicate the space between characters and their positions to an audience. Usually in classical Hollywood cinema a scene opens with an establishing shot. For instance, if you are in Paris we establish the environment by an establishing shot of Paris, with  the Eiffel Tower. in centre frame.  Then cut to an indoors master shot to clearly show where the characters in the scene geographically belong to one another. . .

*constructive editing  relies on the audince being able to geographically tell what is going on without a master shot or establishing shot.  Constructing a  geography through editing without the use of a big master shot.  Insert shots are also a way of constructive editing, something that a lot of HOng Kong action cinema relies on, for visual impact, like a close up of a foot hitting a face. Constructive editing is in Hong kong action cinema used for visual impact, to enhance a sequence.

Also look at the openingsequence of Shaun of The Dead for a great use of constructive editing in a comedic way. No master shot is used, and the space between characters are purposefully hidden to be comically revealed to the audience.

torsdag 22 december 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

The mole was revealed to be Lasse, one of the more harmless, less violence prone individuals of GSI.
But still a lot of stuff is revealed. Thje organisation is showing its real face and are gunning for Johan and his family.


At the same time as Johan is hiding his family from teh Russian mob,   coordinated efforts are being made into shutting down their foes from Moscow. We learn that the Organisation taht ahs been a constant threat throughout is a much bigger one than expected. Even part of the events  leading back as far as Johan Falk#2: Executive Protection.

Jibber jabber:

In discussing the finale on facebook ,a lot of people seem to focus on the exact events of what happened. The ending is somewhat ambivalent. They speculate whether Johan is alive or not.And that is fine. It is a lot of fun speculating on the end. All power to you. But I might figure a different, more symbolic approach. As we get closer to Christmas we might want to look closer to miracles or stuff like that

One interesting comparison can be made to Russia. We can perhaps see Russian orthdoxy religion pervade the world of  Johan Falk, as he finally redeem himself for his previous isoation, to sacrifce hmself for the greater good. On Christmas Eve nonetheless as the whole thing from Zero Tolerance started. The entire sereis started on that day and ends on it in a great symbolic way. It started with Falk saving his step daughter. And The End  ( well) ends with him saving his step daughter and her child. Very symbolic that the series ends on Christmas and that birth is given.

Within Russsian Orthodoxy isolation and  seclusion are considered heretic practices. or unapproved of Falk redeems his soul by sacrificing himself for a greater cause.  He starts out as a lone wolf in Zero Tolerance  but gradually throughout the series assimilate himself in society. 

Remember Lasse? He himself , a victim of GSI, was confronted at one point with  orthodox catholic religion. And it may have struck a chord with Johan in the end, because it might have been leading him into a similar course. Now we actually might see some Russian attitudes seeping inside Swedish mentalties in which we may havbe never seen before. People who sacricifce themselves, see themselves as obsolute for the greater good. Lasse  hanged himself, Johan, he may have survived, we don´t know , is though highly indebted to a higher cause. His life for the survavl to the family.

It is interesting to note that some of the more pivotal moments in  the series Johan spends on his back. 

The opening of the GSI series, but also the end of The Third Wave and The Child Infiltrator. Holding Ola, playing with him in GSI. Saving one of the young perpetrators from being  shot in The Child Infiltrator, saving a pregnant Helen in The Third Wave after being shot in the head.

Several sequences in these films symbölizes pivotal moments in Johan Falks life are being spent on his back.

And the last and most important scene of his life is played out as his step-daugher is giving birth as he is being tortured. Symbolic to say the least. On the verge of death as someone is on the verge of giving life. .

This shows poignancy to his suffering. Johan gives up his life for another. Life is given birth as another is offered. Very ritualistic. And Johan finally sacrifices himself for the greater good which brings his story into full circle. In Zero Tolerance he was the isolated shell of a man. And in Russian ortodox religion. isolation is a sin as I have previously mentioned. And now in  that regard he has truly emerged as a man as who symbolicly finally relinquuished his isolated position  and brings order and stability back to the family.

In Russian literature there is a archetype called the superfluous man. It is a certain type of individual who is unable to create any changes in society.. Johan is the american type of individual lone ranger trying to get the job done on his own. But he fails . Crime continues to exist throught the series, there fore he never amounts to much change. The only change he can contribute  is the one in his own vicinity. He manages to save his step daughter through torture. But at the same time bring down the organization through his sacrifice. So for the first time his crimefighting has had greater effect than usual.  

It is a bit of a reach, but that shell of a man that we previously knew has gone trough twenty movies to redeem himself and proven himself from going through from isolation to assimilation. Johan Falk is now truly one of us as he sacrificed himself for the common good, the family. The collective. And the future.

I  like the idea of noticing or intepreting ideas that may or may not intentionally have seeped into the series.  Some of the outside influences that is part of the franchise.  Like; the Estonian lullaby that is introduced in Executive Protection  and keeps recurring musically throughout the series as well as other melodic motifs in the music that are "Russian" or at least "slavic" especially in this third season. with tracks like Kavkaz and the haunting Eg Er Riddarrinn . These musical motifs, I think give some gravitas to the stuff that I have mentioned above.

Also the philosophical ideas of crime/punishment/redemption that stems from orthodox religion introduced in Operation Nightingale, and how it might storywise work itself into on a deeper level throughout the story and try to give the work a  meaning  below the surface level is also something I have come to appreciate. I might be full of shit in these last few paragraphs for this final installment. It´s not exact science. It is an intepretation, should be taken as such,  and as I said I like to give meaning to films that deserve it. And I think in this instance this series is definetly worth it.

Wrap up:

Regardless, of the fate of Johan Falk, his memory lives on not only in the  heart of his loved one but also in the heart of us action fans. Even though we may never see him again, his work lives on in these twenty films. And for new generations to enjoy.

Thank you Mr Johan Falk for all these years!


The End.

tisdag 13 december 2016


Do not read the following unless you want the entire shit being spoiled for you. You have been warned!

Previously on Johan Falk:

A mole exists within GSI. Who is it, and will anyone find out? Does it relate to anyone Johan knows? We finally find out


One of GSIs most loved and respected  gets gunned down by the mole. The police station enters a state of lockdown; which means the building is closed until the perpetraror is captured. And he does.

It turns out the mole is a former GSI-member. You might remember him. You should.  And I should have. I never thought of him, even though I should´ve. I am bad at these detective things.

The GSI mourns and tries to deal with the situation. A situation in which a former cop is actully at the forefront of it. What does it mean?

Helens previous husband has really been making an ass of himself (Johan Hedenberg)

I am an idiot and never should have given birth to anyone

And Helen sorts out a lot of information and is in the course of action quite a smart person who brings an entrire Russian operation down., But thta is for a later discussion. here is NOW:

Jibber jabber:

Lockdown is a great episode. Not only is it startling in the revelations to come, but opens up a different set of view points for how to percieve this very difficult situation. We are left with some doubtful opinions about our own way of life and opens up an uncomfortable final conclusion in The End

Two shots that define the final moment of a disastrous event.

I think Lasses motivations and his encounter   with Hannas religious beliefs are worth mentioning as they might in some way be relevant for understanding The End. In Operation Nightingale between the two of them  Lasse claims he do have a  firm belief. But it lies in his predetermined views of crime and punishment as in most cops do. . It strikes at first as the normal way for a police to judge a person, but on further investigation one could look further. 

Speaking of crime an punishment, that might not be an entirely appropriate term that Lasse used. As a pretentious scholar like myself, you could see it as an allusion to the Dostojevskij novel, with the same name, if one might strike such a claim. In that novel, the discussion focuses on who is in the right of committing a crime; which brings us to the moralistic conundrum of the series.   The justification of criminal activity can be traced back to that 19th century novel of  how to justify a crime with its means.  In broader terms, the crimes are committed by humans, not an abstract being called "criminals". Human behaviour is eternal and needs no specific race.

Lasse is like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment  guiltridded with his part in Hannas death and has up until now wandered around in some sort of moral vaccum, As an inactive part he has been passive just as Raskolnikov in that same novel. Never present. Passive.  But unlike Dostojevskis novel we never have followed him, even though we might have. He seems like somone who has entered a void, guilt ridden with his actions as he was never someone who was suitable for the job at GSI. He has becoem in some ways become superfluous ( a term we will get back to) to what is going on.

We have not seen him since, bit we can guess his mind of thinking. Not really believing in anything anymore even though he could hardly be blamed for the murder of Hanna.The situation was brought on by the police, the ones who is supposedly in the moral right has put Lasse in some sort of Limbo as he struggles with the consequences.

This is something he blames GSI for putting him into this position. His strong sense of crime and punishment has been part of his belief as a police officer, but seeing and experiencing what GSI has done or been doing may have had a greater effect on the state of his soul. Yeah, that is right. I used that word. Lasse feels someone has done a crime and needs to be punished. His soul needs redeeming, and maybe in his mind GSI needs to be punished.

So crime is not necessarily a queston of a certain type of man destined to be evil , but of a certain kind of behaviour that every man has within himself. Even Lasse who was a sworn police offices proves to be the victim,  There seem to be a certain part of humanity that Swedish cops simply just seem not to grasp or more specifically perhaps Johan Falk? Who knows?

The team tries to deal with the loss of Patrik and now Sophie needs to step up and she does, It all led up to a shift in power so to speak. Now that Patrik is dead, she needs to keep the fire burning or to shift a focus in how to move the team forward.But before she can set change in motion there is need for some spring clean up to take place, and among that spring cleaning one particular Russian woman needs to be swept out. The Baba Yaga  that has haunted Johan Falk; And they do catch her. The Baba Yaga; the Russian witch.

This is both an ideologically interesting episode as it is action packed. The finale throws some exciting action moments at us. But the opening Lockdown sequence is just as well memorable and exciting although more emotionally involving. This episode packs quite a punch in my opinion. And a lot of Lasses baggage at us to ponder. And a lot of that baggae leads us to ponder what will happen next.

In the end, Lasse commit suicide. He becomes the first real victim of the squad. He sacrifices himself. His body disintegrate while what he has done lives on.

Next time on Johan Falk: This is The End

onsdag 16 november 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

Things has gotten darker for GSI as Johan Falk has been framed for murder and is being extorted by the Russian mafia to help them. At the same time GSI learns they have  a mole in their midst.

Seth and Jack are now open enemies and both crews are desperatly trying their luck on  a diamond heist. At the same time has a new  player emerged; a Caucasian mob that has its base in an MMA club where they recruit talent ( reminds me of how Mr Han operates in Enter The Dragon but he had a kung fu island instead of a puny club.)

Seth gets involved with a woman he might regret as she might be doing someone elses biddings.

The plot:

This one has an undercover suspense story built into it this time.  Niklas ( Alexander Karim) is infiltrating an MMA club run by a Caucasian mob ( the Russian kind of Caucasian) as they are mixed up in the diamond heist. But the heist goes awry and everyone involved , including Niklas, are being holed up on an unknown location as the mob boss wants to find out which of them ratted him out.

Johans wife starts to take an active role in the proceedings, and shit gets serious as brother goes against brother in an all out struggle for control between Seth and Jack

Jibber jabber:

This bring brings back a lot of suspense that I felt Silent Diplomacy lacked, as one of the characters we actually care for is in jeopardy. I´m sorry , but I never really cared for Pernilla in any of the films she was in, She never had a personality to her, but Niklas has developed  throughout the course of the series, given some quirky character traits and comes across as a likeable dude. And we learn that he is capable in the mystical ways of Mixed Martial Arts, which brings me to a trope a I highly miss in todays action-cinema: The Kung Fu Cop. I love it!

I miss seeing movies about cops that are well versed in martial arts, cutting the red tape and go straight to the throat punch instead. We used to get a ton of those in the early 90´s starring Cynthia Rothrock, Thomas Ian Griffith and Don "The Dragon " Wilson. All Academy Award-worthy performances, believe me.  And Niklas follows a fine tradition of Kung Fu Cops in the newer MMA tradition that Donnie Yen may have started  in Flashpoint for instance.  I did not expect to see this in a Swedish action film, but I am happy to. The world need more cinematic kung fu cops who can get the job done, one kick to the throat at the time!

We get to see Niklas do some sparring against Seth in the club. Seth does not rat him out, as Niklas also knows who he is,  They both know their true identities. It is a Catch 22. They are both informers, and again says a lot about the overall theme of the story of how the real world is more diffuse, harder to grasp on a deeper level than what we are being told in simplified newspaper narratives where there is simply room for black/white points of view.

Later when Niklas is trapped with a few others. , unlike Frank,  he is not above above suspicion. We do see early on that he has built up some credibility amongst the crew, but there is still suspicion and therefore has he found himself in this nightmarish situation in which no undercover  cops want find themselves in. See The Textbook  of Undercover Nightmares, chapter 1, page 9.
This is the type of situation a cop can finds himself into, whereas someone who has had time to build a street rep outside a police force, outside the boundaries and restrictions of procedural police work can do much better. We learn how capable he is in situations which are strainous  to say the very least. He keeps his calm and use his wits when he notices perhaps some of the others holed up with him might be easily influenced.

It is nice to see Niklas get some more screentime. Which is a good idea to bring him up, so he can shine in Falkology as well. At first in the very first film of the second season ( see Rules of the game) he is as freshbaked member  of GSI we can see  how he has problems with Johans methods. Now he finds himself in a position in which he has to take matters in his own hands. We see him as a pro active guy, expert in martial arts, talking to people, feeling them out ,a sense of who they are and such.  He should have a spin off series, I feel; Humanistic MMA Cop.

Meanwhile  Johan starts to get squeezed by the Russian Mob who wants him to do a few favors for them. Johan starts to act irrationally violent towards them and is using a gun, threatening them to back off his family.  It almost seems like his PTSD or whatever he has has gotten to him,

Zooms in on Johan, cut to Helen in the kitchen...

Shot on the family

Zooms in on Johan as whirring internal sounds keep escalating
The internal whirring  sound stops suddenly as Helen walks into the frame in the next shot
When Johan comes home to his family after the confrontation we experience his perspective. There is great use of a whirring sound as we finds ourselves in Johans pont of view that is suddenly interrupted as Helen approaches him. We have seen similar techniques employed where we are shut out from the external world to get a sense of Johans isolated position... Once in Executive Protection, when Johan is andering aimlessly around the cemetary  all caught up with the consequences of his action, and clueless on what to do next.  And in both those sequences, Helen shows up and interrupt his internal state which leads him to actually  become pro active again  and to start solve the problem at hand.

Helen is crucial to Johan, she  is the one person that dragged Johan back into the world and made him a family man again. I think these scenes are quite important to understand Johan, and for understanding Falkology.  They are  ways for us to get inside Johans  head and perhaps glimpses of someone who is used to shut the outside world out from him. But now , more than ever, is in dire need of people to help him.

 Good shit.

Next time on Johan Falk: Shit gets real. For real!