A video store clerk finds himself unable to cope with the news that his girlfriend is pregnant.
Danish drama Bleeder opens with a video store clerk ticking off a long list of directors. A very long list. It's an amusing little scene, but - on the evidence of this insubstantial offering - the list would have to go on for a lot, lot longer before the name of young writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn appeared.
Refn actually gathered something of an international reputation with his debut, the drug thriller Pusher. Three years on, Bleeder attempts to continue his loose "trilogy", but it lacks both the power and punch of his previous outing.
The bleeding begins when Kevin Godley lookalike Leo is told by his girlfriend, Louise, that he is about to become a dad. Almost immediately, Leo starts to unravel, acting irrationally, and fiercely resisting Louise's attempt to rearrange their basic apartment. Eventually he lashes out. And when a somewhat traumatised Louise reports the incident to her slightly unbalanced brother, Louis, a revenge cycle is initiated with inevitably tragic consequences.
Although the acting is nicely unaffected and the violence admirably unflinching, the odd forceful moment never really amounts to much. The wholly predictable vengeance theme is played out very quickly, and only an unintegrated B plot - featuring the romantic misadventures of the nerdy video store clerk - and the occasional, sub-Kevin Smith, movies-versus-life debate, can pad the action out to a little under 90 minutes.
Taken as a whole, the movie feels like a fleshed out drama improv, the kind of strident student theatre which might cause a small splash at a fringe festival.
Bleeder may well do brisk business in Refn's native country, but unless you are a student of the Danish language there's precious little here to interest British audiences. For a more remarkable descent into kitchen-sink horror, look no further than Gaspar Noe's criminally neglected Seul Contre Tous.