I’m fairly certain I’d watch Stellan Skarsgård do anything. Train a puppy to roll over? Sounds amazing. Delicately cook a perfect Frittata? I’ll be in the front row. But Skarsgård is at his absolute best when brutal violence is involved, only because of his endearingly maniacal appreciation of a good genre role. Only a few months ago he was able to play a boisterous European mobster in Our Kind of Traitor, and luckily, Hans Petter Moland’s In Order Of Disappearance gives us another Skarsgård role to love with almost no wait in between. A less cartoonish, grief-driven turn this time around for Skarsgård, but more killer Skarsgårdian goodness nonetheless. I thought August was supposed to be filled with crap? Yet here’s another positive review coming out of what might be a record-breaking high for typical late-summer garbage.
Skarsgård plays Nils Dickman, a Norwegian snow-plower whose son is murdered by an unfortunate association. The death is framed as an overdose, but Nils suspects foul play. This is when the saddened, angry man starts overturning some rocks by knocking off local thugs.
Nils, a recent recipient of Tyos’ “Citizen of the Year” award, channels his fatherly hatred with only revenge on his mind, getting closer and closer to the man responsible for his son’s death – a drug kingpin known as “Count” (Pål Sverre Hagen). One by one scumbags fall like dominoes, but it’s not until the Serbs get involved that the real fireworks begin…
When you think about it, In Order Of Disappearance is a slasher film at heart. Mild-mannered Nils Dickman loses grip of reality, begins stalking victims, and executes them without remorse. We even get these nifty little tombstone cue-cards after each kill, so we can keep track of all the bodies Nils throws over a rushing waterfall (21 dead, if you’re counting?). Even his wife cannot stand the monster he’s become (she just kind of vanishes), as he continues to kill until his “eye for an eye” needs are met. Sounds like a slasher film to me, and with such a lacking output from the horror genre in this specific subgenre, why not embrace what we have?
As Skarsgård drives around the desolate Nordic tundra of Tyos, Moland does right to evoke the essence of Fargo with a bit more carnage (said many times, but wholly true). This also works doubly to represent the isolation Nils is feeling, caged in his own mind after his son’s murder.
A man, his plow and swirling thoughts of retribution make for a prime killer, but a human quality still grounds Skarsgård’s performance in nothing but seething – yet suppressed – emotionality. Kim Fupz Aakeson’s script isn’t exactly as cloudy as a Coen brothers mystery, but it’s certainly as cold and atmospheric. Credit Mr. Moland with conveying such a icy graveyard, and the gritty shootouts that follow which are defined by necessity, not action set-pieces.
Although, this is no one man show. Pål Sverre Hagen does a wonderful job as a more unhinged criminal boss, who squanders his inherited position on ill-advised orders. The “Count” cares for his own son deeply, but also sucker-punches women, whacks his own guards and loses his temperament at the drop of a dime – everything we love about a psychotically unpredictable villain. Anything is a possibility, which is why he accidentally offends the Serbs with a hasty retaliation against the wrong clan. Many of thugs are scuzzily enjoyable, and all engage in punchy interactions with Skarsgård’s death-dealer – this is a well-acted tragedy that quickly turns into a badass Charles Bronson homage, and everyone benefits from Skarsgård’s central tie.
In Order Of Disappearance is a chilling revenge thriller with a pitch-black sense of humor and plenty of deadshot charisma to spare. Deaths are not superfluous, acting as chapter-ending exclamation points that keep a white-knuckled story of aggression moving forward. Stellan Skarsgård delivers heftily as expected, Hans Petter Moland directs a tense bit of Nordic savagery and no one is left in the cold – this is a sleek addition into the “Death Sentence” genre worth all the blood-tainted snow.
You might make fun of the name Nils “Dickman,” but as many of his opposing thugs find out, there’s nothing to laugh at in this shivery story of painful peace-seeking. It’s frozen, fierce and pretty damn fulfilling.
In Order Of Disappearance is anything but a by-the-number-thriller, but maybe that's because I'd watch Stellan Skarsgård do just about anything.