When a rebellious geriatric (Gustafsson) escapes from his retirement home during his birthday party he gets caught up in globe-trotting antics involving drugs money, skinhead bikers, a Cockney crime lord and a circus elephant, all the while recounting his life story as a dynamite expert.
Already a sensational hit in its native Sweden, this farcical fable has a bit of a global leg-up at cultural phenomenon potential, having been adapted from the comic international bestseller by Jonas Jonasson. It should be pointed out to lovers of Scandi-noir, however, that the humour doesn’t travel as well as the crime, melancholy, crispbread or actors named Skarsgård.
Director Felix Herngren juggles the comic, the tragi-comic and the bizarre pretty neatly. It all kicks off well with Allan’s (Robert Gustafsson) removal to an old people’s home after blowing up the fox that killed his beloved cat, Molotov. It emerges that this is not Allan’s first incarceration, and that he is an explosives savant. From a job in a cannon factory Allan progresses to the Spanish Civil War (where he unintentionally saves Franco’s life), the US (where he helps Robert Oppenheimer crack the atomic bomb), in and out of the clutches of Stalin and the CIA, to crossing paths, and wires, with Reagan and Gorbachev. The ridiculousness of his past vies with the present, in which he picks up a suitcase full of money, boards a bus and initiates a madcap pursuit (enter an elephant) while leaving a trail of hapless assailants in his wake.
The intricate plotting of incidents and coincidences is amusing, as are the freakish accidents that befall sundry baddies, and it’s nicely designed in spanning the 20th century. But the broad performances (Gustafsson is supposedly “the funniest man in Sweden”) and lowbrow gags wear thin, and one longs for some darker, sharper, satirical point to it all.
An absurdist escapade thats quirky fun but not as side-splitting as it thinks it is. Still, it benefits from entertaining complications and attractive production values.