torsdag 21 november 2013

JOHAN FALK-SERIES PART 2:EXECUTIVE PROTECTION (2001)



Executive Protection is the second movie in the serie about renegade cop Johan Falk and it is also the first in the series  broadening the scope of the story by integrating the threat of foreign organized crime trying to get a foothold in Sweden. Who else is better to deal with the threat than lone wolf Falk?

Johan Falk has been suspended from the police force after the events from Zero Tolerance and he is being contacted by an old friend of his; Sven Persson (Samuel Fröler) who is being extorted by a foreign mafia. The downsized Swedish police force is stretched to thin to actually help out so Falk gets them in touch with  a private security firm, I guess the ronin or the gunfighters of  Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven, since this movie seem to owe a big part of the story to Kurosawa and/or Sturges movie. These are basically hired guns who is hired to protect them from the outlaws trying to squeeze them dry, much like the roaming villains of aforementioned flicks.They  then proceed to secure Persson´s house with surveillance equipment and reinforced windows and doors to try to fend off the threat. 

Falk is ready to take on villainous foreign mobsters.

What is particular great about this movie is how it sets up the stakes, the plot is so straightforward and tight, 
there is basically not one dull moment and it is tense throughout. Compared to most swedish thrillers this is perhaps the most american, but the settings and the themes or motifs are so Swedish, like the first movie that it makes it kinda unique. There are some very clever use of sounddesign at the climax. I am not gonna spoil anything, but this is one helluva actionpicture. Where american movies excell at the sheer spectacle of the action, with explosions, where Sweden cannot compete in terms of resources, Nilsson uses the plot,story and characters to  much more extent than American actionfilmmakers and in that sense the action becomes much more involving. Executive Protection is a great example of how an international cinema with little money can create action that may not be spectacular in itself, but assimilated into the story.
There are some poor english-speaking dialogue, but that hopefully does not distract from this otherwise fine slice of genre film for anyone who appreciate actionfilms. Also, there are some generic plot devices in use here, but I find them to be used to great suspenseful advantage.

Here is the haunting opening theme to the movie. It is fucking awesome and unusual:

As I mentioned in teh first review; here is an Amazon-link of getting the first three Falk-movies on Region 1:
http://www.amazon.com/Johan-Falk-Trilogy-Jakob-Eklund/dp/B00F988AV4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385024665&sr=8-1&keywords=johan+falk

söndag 17 november 2013

JOHAN FALK-SERIES:ZERO TOLERANCE (1999)


Swedish action-cinema has been a pretty obscure little genre. Action has always been looked down upon by so called "cinephiles" and critics. Whenever an action picture has been made, it was usually an attempt to copy american actionmovies in all its excesses  without attempting to add a local Swedish contemporary flavor to it. No wonder it has been laughed at, the attempts have been abysmal at best and embarrassing at worst, until Anders Nilsson´s Zero Tolerance was released.Now the laughing has stopped.

Ironically, Nilsson was tutored by the Swedish exploitation filmmaker Mats Helge Olsson (The Ninja Mission) who put out the most generic (but still fun) "americanized" actionpictures that was laughed at.
Nilsson learned the craft by directing dozens of ninjapictures which led up to his first mainstream film, which he co-wrote with Joakim Hansson.

Zero Tolerance focuses on ex military  Johan Falk,detective in the Gothenburg police force , a lone wolf who has some cooperation-issues with fellow officers, a typical cop action movie convention.
Like many great cop action pictures, it takes place during Christmastime (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) and Falk (Jakob Eklund) stumbles upon a robbery, pursues the suspect which leads to a shootout leaving an innocent bystander victim for a stray bullet from the movie´s antagonist Leo Gaut (Peter Andersson). Three witnesses saw the whole incident and now Gaut is wanted for murder. However, Gaut uses an informant within the police to get the names and adresses from the victims to threaten them from testyfying, leaving the witnesses between a rock and a hard place, since inSweden, a person is by law forced to witness or jailtime might be the consequence.

Johan Falk in action

The witnesses refuse to point out Gaut, leaving Falk to take measures into his own hands, but soon he is framed for assaulting Gaut and Falk himself becomes a wanted man and alone need to find evidence of his innocence as well as going after Gaut.

Gaut is an intimidating villain. Great performance by Peter Andersson

What makes Zero Tolerance so exciting is that as a genre piece grounds itself in a Swedish reality. The action is akin to Swedish film making sensibilities, unlike previous efforts. It is highly realistic and serves the plot of the film. Reminding you of great 70´s pictures like Bullitt or The French Connection. It might not be spectacular in terms of staging, but the suspense of the movie makes them thrilling to watch. Nilsson also exhibits a great sense of cinema by giving the audience visual cues or clues of what is going on in the story below the surface.

Falk is a great mythic hero with a troubled past. He shares some similarities with Lethal Weapon´s Martin Riggs with his background, where his one true love getting killed in a carcrash. Howevere, Riggs wife was murdered, we never find out the circumstances of this tragic event that shaped Falk´s personality into the shutoff lone wolf he is, shutting everyone out.

Zero Tolerance is the first in a long line of Johan Falk adventures. There were two also theatrically released sequels as well as an ongoing feature-length television series that consists of twelve (!) movies. I intend to review all of them, since these movies really need an international audience. While the themes might play better with a nordic or swedish audience, the mythic qualities of the hero and the story should appeal to a broader audience.

Zero Tolerance is available to purchase as part of a Johan Falk trilogy boxset (Region 1) here:
http://www.amazon.com/Johan-Falk-Trilogy-Jakob-Eklund/dp/B00F988AV4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384697857&sr=8-1&keywords=johan+falk

The soundtrack to this series by Bengt Nilsson is incredible.

https://open.spotify.com/album/1y9wupODeajvRnOAT4iRiZ