torsdag 27 oktober 2016


The adventures of this vertically-challenged version of  ex military cop, current drifter Jack Reacher continues. This time it is the 20th Book in the series that is being adapted. Last movie simply named Jack Reacher was adapted from One Shot, which I believe was the 9th in the series. This is what I like about these type of episodic pulp heroes. You can basically sink your teeth into which one you want to as prior knowledge is not needed. That is not to say that there isn´t much of a mythology. Quite the contrary, we get plenty of backstory from Reachers days as a Military Police officer. Some books are dedicated entirely to a specific episode from his past. In Never go back, we learn some of his past, but it  sticks to modern day throughout the book,  which is the basic template for the franchise.

Some of the more distinguishing features of the appeal of this character might be worth mentioning. Reacher lives a basically a life as a bum/drifter/nomad,  He wishes not be bound by materialism or steady relationships, but lives instead as a drifter going from place to place and gets into situations. A variant of the Western hero archetype, who belongs nowhere.

It also gives him a very specific idiosyncrasis to him. and a very specific thought pattern to his lifestyle.  His entire life is based around moving on, leaving everything behind. He never bother to wash his clothes, he purchases new ones instead from second hand stores as he has no house he live sin, therefore no wahsing machines( he could use a laundromat, but that mean he need to wander around with spare clothes, which he does not like). All he has is a toothbrush. In one novel , some bad guy who had broken into his motel room  stepped on his toothbrush, his only belonging, and Reacher got real upset about it. Pretty funny. Noone else but Reacher would be upset over the loss of  a toothbrush, which further illustrates his mannorisms. A lot of people are sometimes weirded out by him, and sometimes it becomes humorous as they try to make sense of his lifestyle. Why deliberatly live as a hobo? Huh...?

I´m not quite sure how this kind of living would even be remotely possible in real life these days. Nomad life is actually frowned upon in our western society and  purchasing clothes all the time seems like a false economy in many ways. But Reacher might be a representative from a yearning to be free from all the stuff we allow ourselves to be tied up to (mortgages, loans, cars, houses etc) and in our imagination, for a few hundred pages, allow ourselves to participate in that type of journey. This is what I like about the book and the character. He never moans about his internal state, he actually is living the life as it should be. taking day by day as they come and enjoy life.  He can travel across the country just to see if a strange rumour is true to satisfy his curiosity ( usually his curiousity ends up ,curiously enough , in a shitstorm of troubles).

Minor details, like whenever he enters a diner in a book and discovers to his delight as a coffee addict that the diner has a bottomless cup police is a treat in every book. And when in one book he encounters a diner that has shitty service and no refills he gets bummed out. For me these smaller moments are great. Just sitting down and drinking coffee is a time to take a break and enjoy life. Maybe it is just me mellowing in my older days, but I like the diner scenes in the novels. It´s like Twin Peaks whenever Dale Cooper is having coffee; you enjoy it as a viewer just as much as he does.

The plot of Never Go Back is of that Reacher travels to his former military post in Virginia ; the 110th Military Police to meet Susan Turner, whom he only until this point  known through phone contact. Upon arrival he finds she has been releaved of command and arrested and as he further investigates Reacher unravels a conspiracy. He also finds he may have a fifteen year old daughter, Samantha,  he never knew about. Reacher is also framed for a murder and sees no other option to bust himself and Turner out of prison, find his presumed daughter who may now find herself in harms way as a target for the conspirators. So Reacher, Turner and Samantha  begins a quest to prove themselves innocent but also crack the conspiracy wide open.

Unlike previous installment, this is less procedural . The family dynamic between the three characters put the lone wolf Reacher in a position he is not used to be in which makes this one more emotional involving than Jack Reacher.

On the other hand, this feels a lot more audience friendly version of the  uncompromisingly detached character that Reacher is in the novels. But he has on occasion in the novels been put in situations in which he may had to reflect on his choice of lifestyle, so it makes sense both in terms of action film narrative and as a companion to the books.

The messy plot of the Lee Childs novel has been more streamlined and actually flows a lot better in my opinion, but some of the weirder stuff has been lost. Like a sequence in which Turner and Reacher randomly comes across a random clan of hillbillys. It  was the same kind of weirdness as the guy with a trunk full of rabbits in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. But there is little weirdness or anything quirky about it. It is mostly a solid thriller.  But the relationship between Reacher and his assumed daughter is more developed and engaging and way more thought out than in the book and the family dynamic is sometimes humorous.

Cruise has really grown into the role, (despite that he is quite a lot shorter than Reacher from the novels) and his aging face with more wrinkles and lines, that not only gives him more personality but as a result  make him seem more believable as a bad ass these days. I think I am convinced. I  fully approve of this version of Reacher.

Director Edward Zwick , unlike Christopher McQuarrie dirctor of Jack Reacher 1, adds little in terms of visual touches or anything memorable except for some cheesy black and white effects added for internal purposes. But this is also the director known for bland films and comfortable "couch dramas". More of a director of Oscar bait material than  of low brow genre films of which Jack Reacher most clearly is. But at least he never falls into the trap of  non-genre directors of shaking the camera around in the action set pieces. The fights are still as good as in the first film; swift and brutal in execution as they are in the novels, but also clear for the human eye to register and follow the movements. That is good news. I think it is in the drama scenes perhaps, his strengths lies , which slightly elevates this movir from most blockbusters. You like the characters. Zwick alse makes Reacher a bit more vulnerable, but not too much.

Oh, there are a couple of diner scenes as well. Good.

söndag 23 oktober 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

Johan has been snared into working for the Russians. He  now has a handler. A  woman which we as of yet has no knowledge of.  From our point of view he has been snared. But from the Russians point of view they have recruited someone to work for them. The grey murky areas continue to make cracks on the ground we walk on.

Meanwhile, there might be a power struggle brewing inside Seth Rydells gang, and the connections between GSI and  Seth Rydell  are slowly getting tighter at the same time there are huge tensions.

Oh yeah, GSI might have been compromised and there might be a cop inside GSI  helping the Russians.


The plot this time takes a bit of a temporary wide turn to tell a story of international political intrigue inside a Middle Eastern country and how it spills over to Swedish soil, involving , for Falkologists, a very familiar face, Pernilla  (Alexandra Rapaport) from Executive Protection, now owner of her own private security firm and privately inside a real shitstorm. In the opening of the film we see she´s been hired to protect the family to a higher ups in an no named Middel Eastern country. But shit hits the fan and her security detail gets ambushed and kidnapped.Pernilla is forced to help the terrorists for reasons unknown at first, but it involves a badass diplomat working on Swedish soil, civil war and some trickery involving money transactions and coimputers. (According to the shooting script one of the security guards is Ralf from Executive Protection, which I did not realize it at first.)

We also get introduced to the owner of an MMA club wanting to buy guns from Seth who has connections with  Czechen  mafia. this subplot will  be more elaborated on in next film. Another chesspiece has entered the board.

Patrik has stepped down as leader for GSI due to his cancer, but he remains as a mentor to Sophie. Also GSI need to find who has leaked. There is an infiltrator within the police. 

Meanwhile , Jack is struggling to cope with  his two failed assassination attempts on his brother-in-arms Seth Rydell. The Pakistanis are pretty pissed about that.  Jack is also  suspecting Seth working for the cops.

Jibber jabber:

The plot is pretty convoluted this time around, perhaps too much so to really care about and invest in. The surface plot with the middle eastern politics seem at surface bland and uninteresting. But thematically one might find one or two things worth mentioning.

Just as Johan, Pernilla is put in a morally grey position as she is forced to help terrorists in a civil war struggle, a conflict that for us as outsiders we have little grasp on.  She seems to also have a handler; one of the terrorists actually says "she is my responsibility". The villains might believe they are doing what is best for their own country. Who are we to judge? We are put in a position to root against them as they threaten Swedes; Pernilla as they hold her personnel hostage against her. But put in a different narrative light, their actions might be understood. Thinking this way it gives the  series another furnish of complexity, that the world is not as easily defined in terms of good and bad.

I think this is the one that is hardest to grasp as far as the narrative goes. Weapon deals, diamond heists, foreign politics and fragile alliances of all sorts. A lot is going on. It becomes more of a espionage thriller, than a straight forward thriller like the last one. Who is who and who does what to who?

In one of the scenes the diplomat  survives an attempt by being a complete badass, overcomes, stabs and kick the living shit out of two assassins even when shot at close range:

A bit of awkwardness occurs as Johan and Pernilla meet for the first time in  like thirteen years.

The scene is fairly straightforwardly shot, shot-reverse shot , with some close ups to the faces to try to see what  reactions can be revealed.. Signaling that these people are professionals that despite meeting each other for the firts time in years, they keep their guard up. It is a poker game.

They´ve never socialized outside their professions before. A line is at the end of the scene exchanged in which they might have lunch someday. I don´t  think so.

Underneath the courtesy lies some suspicion as one line form the script more explicitly states when Pernilla asks "Are you spying on me?. That line seems to have been deleted and instead relied on insinuation. Good.

Later there is a similar confrontation, but with more emotional underpinnings when Jack and Seth reveals to each other their true intentions. 

Similar setup, but with a higher degree of suspicion, underlying threats and explicit earnesty. They have no secrets  anymore. The hostility is in the open it seems.  These are two people with a history, they´ve built tight bonds and go way back, which makes the scene  more involving. You know these people cared for each other. It went beyond  being professionals, they were "brothers". I care more about these criminals than Pernilla and Johans relatonship.


To be honest, I prefer the last movie´s more straight forward approach, but I can appreciate the ballsyness of crafting a more diffused narrative to complement the underlying themes of the difficulty in where to draw a line morally. It is murky, grey and hard to make something of, The espionage elements makes it way more vague and ambivalent, like we have fallen into a dark abyss in which there is no moral, no bottom to plant your feet and grasp your world.   Seth is selling arms to terrorists at the same time he helps the police. It is an ongoing morally ambiguous tale, which this series excel at, but I would have liked to have been more invested in the plot.

I never could figure out entirely what was going on in the politics so as a surface thriller it kind of disappears into blandness. It is what is going on between the characters in the subplots that keeps this one afloat and the overall themes that lies like a blanket over everything that happens.

All this confusion made me think. I don´t know, any more, you guys. Are the Russians any worse than the supposedly good guys on our parts anymore. Should we actually embrace this fear of Russians or is there another way to look at these apparently  unfathomable bunch of people? Are they so strange and weird? Or am I strange and weird for thinking that?

Next time on Johan Falk:

Undercover work within the MMA club and the Czechen mafias stronhold.

fredag 7 oktober 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

A lot of shit went down. The credibility of the police force for one. Frank Wagners cover was blown and he was let down by the government who had used him for their own benefit without fulfilling their promise. Johan stepped up and made sure Frank could get away, redeeming himself somewhat by executing the Russian mobster who´d  targeted Frank.

But how the hell did the Russian Mob (Tm?) get access the secret identities of every GSI member? The plot thickens...


The movie opens almost like Code name: Lisa but instead of someone lurking outside Frank Wagners apartment  someone is  clutching the handle to Johan Falks door. Johan approaches the door, with a pistol in his hands, trembling and  seemingly suffering from PTSD  from shooting Dudajev in the goddamn head so Frank could get away and have a clean start.  This is the first time we have seen Johan this distraught. Because of the cold blooded murder of Dudajev he had now taken steps beyond law and order for the very first time in a big way.

We also see how the Russian mafia has located huge old weapon caches inside containers in a lake in Latvia  that once belonged to the Russian government.  We will later see that they may plan to smuggle some of them into Sweden.


The plot starts  immediately after the events of Codename: Lisa.  GSI is trying to figure out how Dudajev  could have gotten hold of the identities of the team. Johan is approached by the Dudajev widow and she is scared of the repurcussions she will face from the Russian mob. What Dudajev was up to wasn´t  sanctioned by the higher-ups ( seems familiar).  He was a loose cannon that brought too much attention it seems.

What Johan wants in return for his help is the intel on where the information on his team came from. In order  to get it he has to  protect her in Riga. But when he is there he manages to get the intel to GSI, but too late realizes the whole thing was a setup, gets bushwhacked and Dudajevs widow being murdered in the process, and ends up in a secluded hotel room, bruised , battered and confused.

He is later being approached in the hotel lobby by a  Russian woman who conveys the layout of the land to Johan. They have planted evidence so Johan will take the fall for the murder of the widow, unless he agrees to work for them. So basically, the woman becomes a handler for Johan. The tables seem to have turned.

Johan reluctantly  agree to play along (momentarily at least) and is given the task of smuggling a truck full of those guns the Russians dug up from a lake into Sweden. During the drive to Sweden Johan must find a way out of this before he reaches his home country. because, who the hell would want more high powered guns? Oh... bad guys. That´s right.

Meanwhile, turmoil are brewing inside  Seth Rydells organization as a former companion , Jack
(Björn Bengtsson) has been realised from prison and wants to reassert his position in the gang. There is later an attempt on Seths life that Jack orchestrated. The conflict has been presented, a lot of history is being conveyed between these two characters and brings even more complexity and nuances to the plot.

"Your fucking Hobbexbomb means for non-Swedish readers Mailorder-bomb"

A lot of chess pieces are being setup in this one. So to speak,  And I am glad to see Falk being the centrepiece of the narrative once again as he  becomes the propulsive force to the main plot. 

This is reminiscent to Zero Tolerance as Johan has himself to blame for falling into an obvious  trap and getting snared, History repeats itself.  But apparently he has to act recklessly inorder to get the story going.

On a surface level this works as a great straight forward action movie, with  an exciting setup. But as one digs deeper, it becomes complex with betrayals within betrayals within different groups and as we learn at the end of the film, GSI is not spared from treachery. Ohhh. SPOILER by the way.

Jakob Eklund as Falk gets more to work with the role here than in a lot of the previous ones. In one touching moment of the film as he drives the truck Falk calls his family, finds out that his stepdaughter is pregnant and his reaction to it. It is a great  moment for the audience, as we know what peril he is in, but they don´t. His family is happy and safe for the moment. The tranquility is about to fall apart within the next films.

For a movie that runs for 100 minutes, it is jampacked with plot points, subplots and lots of stuff that are worthy of scrutiny. But this is the joy of being a Falkologist. There is always something to bring up, discuss and evaluate.

Music and cinematography:

I´ve never before mentioned Bengt Nilssons score, which for me has always been  a high point from Zero Tolerance to this day. Mixing the usual beats and  percusssions of an action score with sombre, melancolic tenderness, Using violins in a non-sappy way is pretty amazing. Nilssons score stands above a lot of contemporaries in my opinion, brings a lot to these films and is a big part of what makes them unique in contemporary  Swedish action- cinema.

I also must mention the look of this series with its vibrant look utilizing more shadows, more greens and blues and  just makes the show feel darker in tone. It  definitely looks more cinematic than the previous two series, which is  a great  evolvement and thematically what is going on.

Jibber jabber:

In my opinion, the best scene, is not even in the released film! A sequence that was dropped presenting to the viewer a  highly atmospheric  piece of film. According to the notes accompanying the deleted scene on the dvd, they shot more than was scripted but it was dropped since it never conveyed  any new information to the viewer.

The sequence in question is one that takes place after Johan finds out he has been snared and entrapped. His response is to walk the streets of Riga, trying to grasp the situation that has befallen him. Isolation and persecution are the keywords here. We follow Johanthrough a few moments of empty desolate places. He is falling  apart it seems, connected to the first scene in his apartment, has a hard time to walk, sits down but can´t keep still as he is haunted, persecuted by people in a strange land.. We see Johan more human and fragile than before. But he has very little time to contemplate his situation as he is stalked through the "Streets of Riga" ( not Philadelphia!).

A real shame it is not there in the released dvd, at least in a branched version. It is presented in the deleted scenes section only. I mean, the need for every element to serve a narrative purpose to drive the story forward is crucial in an actionfilm, but I don´t think it would have hurt the film that much of letting it breathe at this point, letting the audience take in Johan Falks sense of isolation.

I like this shot. And the depth it conveys.

Man, it invokes some memories from watching  The Third Man. At least for me.

These last shots we sense him being tracked in these isolated environments that also gives a tremendous sense of depth. I find this atmospheric sequence quite unusual in action- cinema,  seems more impressionistic than realistic and it is a real shame that it was cut from the film. Oh well.

Instead we end up with a few lines to convey his travels through Riga. It feels a bit jarring from a continuity standpoint and also less cinematic when you have a character simply describing Falks travels rather than showing it. On the other hand, if I never saw the deleted sequence, would it still feel as  abrupt as it does now? A good ask oneself. I will contemplate on this. A good Falkologist needs to be open-minded, so I will not grudge any longer. I am glad the scene exists on dvd for prosperity and for future Falkologists to ponder  and examine.

Just a final thought; I glanced through the pages to the shooting script and reading the scene as it was envisioned. In the script Falk  walks around "determined" and he seems to have a sort of plan , which is not what he is doing in this sequence. In the filmed scene he struggles to cope with the situation and is shown quite vulnerable. they made Falk more human, in the script he comes of as typically macho cocky. I am glad that this scene tries to get away from that.

Otherwise, Into the fire is one of the great entries in the series. It has an interesting ,suspenseful setup with some urgency built into it. But it also works very well by building up all this machinery of subplots underneath it without taking away the surface thriller enjoyment.

Next time on Johan Falk: A reunion from Executive protection.

tisdag 4 oktober 2016

The Importance of being Frank

Filmmaker Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys) discussed in  one interview ( I forgot which one) the role and purpose of the action hero in  conventional narrative form. The action hero is the one character  that stands outside of society´s norms. He represents the outsider. The society does not want anything to do with him or his values, like a Frankensteins monster. But when shit hits the fan they need him to protect the status quo.

This is similar to Frank Wagner who belongs nowhere , is an outcast among the cops and his own family who wants nothing to do with him. He is the outsider. But he is also  in a position to make a difference, to do something the law can not. And that is why we may need someone like Frank Wagner as much as we might despise it. Like Batman.

GSI has no problem using him to their own needs and when push comes to shove Frank actually is being left outside in order to protect status quo. Police officers are forbidden by law to use  civilian informers, but as the films shows us, is a morally grey area. Cops have their own moral code, like samurai, which they don´t want to break and it also makes them less credible as undercover informants. It is simply better to use someone who never took an oath. And does not need to break that vow  the officer has taken to society.

But when society needs him they come crawling back to him. He is  that Frankenstein-monster that Shane Black speaks of . Johan Falk in these last movie is less so.. Johan is conflicted. On one hand he is one of those types, but he has a firm belief in the law in some ways. He stands between Frank, the outsider and the acceptable society. Caught in between.

For further discussion, have anyone seen Blade-The series?  It was a shortlived television series based on the Marvel character that Wesley Snipes made so iconic. Played by Sticky Fingaz, the series dealt with  using an undercover vampire to infiltrate the vampire organization. It was a clever twist on the vampire formula, made it more like The Wire than comic book.. Krista (Jill Wagner) comes back from the Iraqui war only to find her brother  being quite dead, she immediately tries to find out, gets sucked (haha) into the vampire underworld and used by Blade as an informer. Her family gets more distressed and more and more distanced from her. 

Frank Wagner has similar personal problems, His family disappointed in him. they think he really is a criminal. And it is made even worse when the family consists of cops.  In Blade- the series we see a similar position. Seths gang wear a lot of leather just like vampires. Franks mother suffer similiar like Kristas gang of vampires but he, unlike Krista  cannot ressurect her. he is a more tragic character as he finds himself way more vulnerable. He is not a vampire, you know. But there is still of a disgust of him from the poeple around him and a lot of blame is given.

Blade-The series is in a way similar to the Johan Falk-series as it tries to deepen an already established world/universe by focusing it elsewhere rather than the main protagonist to enlighten certain topics or themes. Blade-The series shows us a vampiric world of betrayals and intrigue ,very humanlike and Macchiavellian in its nature. The Falk-series tries to look at the world in more shades of grey, than on villifying. Obviously you have to have a threat, and a real bad guy that is worse than Seth Rydell. But that is part of  dramaturgy. There needs to be a threat of some sorts that needs to be combated, but the two sides Rydell/Falk are not so easily distinguished. Both sides break the law, one of the sides try to defend the state and make it legitimate through its actions that is paradoxiaclly in starkt contrast to the democratic parliament rule that we now inhabit in Sweden.

Johan Falk as a character gets sidelined throughout most of the twelve episodes when Frank Wagner plays a part. And more often than not Frank is the propulsive force and Johan the passive part.. An interesting twist on the action movie formula, Johan Falk has been established as the main protagonist but is put in a  murkier position in which he is uncertain as how he should behave himself.

The idea of an outsider to help the established society to reinforce  the status quo ( democracy in this case) is known in plentiful of Westerns and has also been used subversively in the grim High plains drifter, a movie that deals with  civic courage or rather the lack of civic curage in a society, a topic Johan Falk is familiar with.

Finally, the reason for the outsider to remain an outsider is for  the simple purpose of society to actually  exist which may be problematic as this might suggest that democracy is so deeply flawed that we might need to resort to undemocratic methods to defend it.*

As Frank Wagners story concluded in Codename Lisa, Johan Falk will yet again become the focus point in the last five movies. And where will it lead him? We will just have to see.

*see also Christoper Nolans Batman-films and the reasoning behind covering up Dents true demise