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Wallander: The Revenge | Review

Pulp Drivel: Brandstrom’s TV Series a Swedish Snooze

Charlotte Brandstrom Wallander: The Revenge PosterThere’s something stupendously affirming about Charlotte Brandstrom’s Wallander: The Revenge, a 90 minute episode of a Swedish made-for-television (in 2009!) series, followed by 13 more such episodes, and now getting a theatrical release Stateside presumably because of that successful trilogy about that girl and the tattoo we’re all tired of hearing about. Basically, it’s nice to see that American television isn’t the only international small screen to be flogged and flooded with yawn-athon whodunit mystery thrillers that only manage to question why one need stay through the end credits.

Based on the works of Henning Mankel, one of Scandinavia’s most popular mystery writers, we’re introduced to the aged Kurt Wallander (Krister Henriksson) at a birthday celebration at his newly bought seaside home in Ystad. The wizened policeman’s cheeky friends have purchased the new homeowner a tool set, and as the small gaggle guffaw about the old bachelor, the town’s only electrical plant is blown sky high and everyone is left in darkness. And then the curator of an extremely controversial art exhibition about Mohammed is shot fifteen times in the darkness. Then some cars explode. A nurse is shot in the hospital in broad daylight and someone else gets the same treatment. All of these incidents are seemingly disparate, but what’s the missing link that presumably connects them all? A new addition to the staff from the prosecutor’s office (Lena Endre, from those Tattoo films) supervises Wallander, while further tension arises when he is tasked with training two new police recruits, a young man and woman. The circumstances surrounding the curator’s death is being blamed on Islamic terrorists, and as racial tensions arise, Wallander must keep his cool and discover who is blowing up cars and terrorizing random denizens of the once quiet community.

While it’s true Henning Mankel and his titular protagonist were around well before Stieg Larsson’s series, there couldn’t be more of a difference between someone like Lisabeth Salander and Kurt Wallander. Audiences pining for the angsty goth female and all her glorious baggage couldn’t be more disappointed here. These ho hum exploits of an old fuddy duddy in his early sixties are propelled along more by his discomfort with women than his curious lack of investigative skills. In fact, Wallander is seen to be an inherent misogynist, asking the new male recruit to begin working on the new terrorism case while the female is assigned to go fetch his beloved dog from his home. We’re informed by the female recruit that in the coming weeks, all organizations must adhere to an equal opportunity clause. Affirmative Action has finally hit Sweden, a subversive element revolving around democracy, which serves to buttress the antagonist’s motive. If it weren’t for democracy, a stationary military presence would resolve those pesky free speech protests and subsequent terroristic threats, right?

It’s never clear why the dog Jussi must be brought to the police station other than as a situation that positions Wallander as a woman hater, exacerbated in the next scene by the fact that he suddenly must take orders directly from a woman. And poor Lena Endre (who also stars with Henriksson in 2011’s With Every Heartbeat) is saddled with also developing romantic affections for the crusty lothario. Sadly the woman hating undertones and tacky examinations of rampant racism don’t even have the murky pulp elements that make The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo so trashily appealing. With clichéd plot developments that make daytime soaps look edgy by comparison, it’s surprising to note that this first installment received a theatrical release in its native country as well. More problematic than cinematic, this Swedish meatball is one bland turkey.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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