In the past decade or so, we have been blessed with an apparently endless stream of masterful Scandinavian TV and film. Dubbed ‘Nordic Noir’, the genre’s high-quality reputation has led to an explosion in popularity, engulfing our nation in a veritable Scandimania.
Part of this new wave was 2010’s Easy Money starring Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, Robocop) based on Jens Lapidus’ 2006 novel – the first in his ‘Stockholm Noir’ trilogy. Directed by Babakna Jafi (Sebbe) Easy Money II: Hard to Kill ups the stakes from the thrilling first film with more action and more tension, boasting exceptional performances from returning cast members Matias Varela, Dragomir Mrsic and Lisa Henni.
To celebrate the April 7th DVD & Blu-Ray release of the highly anticipated sequel Easy Money II: Hard to Kill, we take a look at some of the best Scandinavian thrillers to grace our screens.
EASY MONEY II
JW (Kinnaman), the promising business student who became an organized coke smuggler in Easy Money, is serving hard time in prison and struggling to get back on an honest path. There are glimmers of hope in his life – some venture capitalists are interested in a new piece of trading software he’s developed, and while behind bars he’s made peace with an old enemy. This all proves to be an illusion. On leave from prison, and back in contact with his former gang, JW learns that once you’ve walked in the shoes of a criminal there just may be no going back.
Picking up where Easy Money left off, this thrilling sequel is perhaps more impressive than the original, and with lead Joel Kinnaman now starring in huge blockbusters like Robocop, we may look back on the series as the birth of a new Scandinavian superstar.
Even the most patient of serial-bingers could be forgiven for thinking that a 20 episode series that focuses on a single murder might be a bit slow. And it is. Incredibly slow. However, this ostensible snail’s pace has not proved to be a detractor from enjoyment of the show, quite the opposite – the intriguing, slow-burning progression of The Killing has been praised by critics and audiences alike.
Produced by Denmark’s national broadcasting company in 2007 and picked up by the BBC a few years later, The Killing has become one of the most widely-lauded TV shows in recent years. Undoubtedly the catalyst for the whole Nordic Noir craze, the Killing also spawned one of the most beloved TV protagonists in the kooky jumper-loving Sarah Lund.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced investigative journalist, is hired by the head of a powerful family to investigate the whereabouts of his niece who has been missing for over 30 years. He eventually teams up with the enigmatic but damaged computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). Together they begin to unravel the mystery of the missing girl which takes a number of astonishing twists and turns.
Based on the first novel in Steig Larsson’s best-selling Millenium trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a runaway hit. Made on a relatively modest budget of $13m, the film went on to reap $104m from the global box office, demonstrating the widespread appetite for great Scandinavian thrillers.
Also adapted from a series of novels, Wallander tells the story of idiosyncratic detective Kurt Wallander. Technically a TV series, Wallander is comprised of feature-length episodes with largely self-contained plots.
First released in 2005, Wallander was the pioneer of the Nordic Noir genre, predating all of the other films and shows celebrated on this list. While it didn’t quite achieve the same popularity as some of its descendants, shows like The Killing are undoubtedly indebted to Wallander and its bleak aesthetic. In 2008 the BBC produced their own adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh.
When a body is found on the bridge that separates Sweden and Denmark, it is soon discovered that it has been placed precisely border between the two countries. With jurisdiction shared, Swedish investigator Saga Norén is forced to partner with the Danish Martin Rohde and thus, one of the greatest TV detective partnerships was born.
A collaborative production between the Swedish and Danish national broadcasters – the first of its kind – The Bridge has quickly cemented itself as a cult favourite. The intricately woven mystery coupled with the dynamic between the two detectives has proven to be a recipe for success, with the show garnering universal acclaim.