The 2014 Scandinavian thriller In Order of Disappearance certainly hits the Coen piñata hard, with a bloodily comedic take on snowbound crime that should set Joel and Ethan’s collective ears ablaze. Fortunately, however, some inspired stylistic touches and a terrific-even-by-his-standards lead performance from Stellan Skarsgård also let it successfully stake its own claim.
Set during an especially bleak Norwegian winter, the story follows a Swedish snowplow driver (Skarsgård) who stands as a pillar of his small community, despite his immigrant status. After his son is killed in a mob-related incident, he takes a hacksaw to his hunting rifle and begins revenging. The Fargo-era hallmarks are everywhere, ranging from a kidnapping gone wrong, the increasing sense of a universe at the whim of the fickle finger of fate, and, above all, the mixture of everyday mundanity and the violently surreal.
Thankfully, director Hans Petter Moland (A Somewhat Gentle Man) keeps his material comfortably above mere homage, displaying a knack for creatively staged carnage and no small amount of deadpan wit. An early shot of the Great Wide Open crushingly framed under a snowplow blade is enough to tell you that the filmmaker has thought this all through.
Above all, though, In Order of Disappearance has Skarsgård, who is just perfect as a regular Joe turned scarily creative Terminator. Alternating between ridiculously out of his depth and single-mindedly driven, he provides an ideal center for the movie’s particular breed of madness to flock around. As awesome as Liam Neeson will most likely be in the announced US remake, the Big Guy’s got some voluminous shoes to fill.