Wild Men movie review: this flexi-Viking saga is unshowily nuanced

·2-min read
 (Handout)
(Handout)

Armed only with a bow and arrow, a fur-swaddled Dane (Rasmus Bjerg) stalks wild animals in a forest. It’s challenging terrain and the statuesque Scandinavian figure sinks to the ground with relief when he spots a clue to a potential source of food (a discarded ice-cream wrapper). Before you can say Odin Schmodin, Martin (Rasmus Bjerg), is in a petrol station, stacking up on crisps and beer.

Martin’s what you might call a flexi-Viking. Thomas Daneskov’s wry bromance (which would work nicely in a double-bill with Robert Eggers’ The Northman) is about angst, hands-on violence and the danger of buying into simplistic ideologies. Bored and troubled Martin, a fortysomething white-collar worker, has snuck off to Norway. He embraces blather about hardy males needing to stick together, bonding instantly with a wounded Dane, Musa (Zaki Youssef), who we know is a drug dealer, but who Martin assumes is a glamorous renegade.

The odd couple hike/hobble through stunning mountain scenery, pursued by the police led by stoic Sheriff, Oyvind (Bjørn Sundquist). Also hot on the pair’s trail are two of Musa’s dodgy colleagues, plus Martin’s family, namely his anguished wife, (Sofie Gråbøl, from The Killing), two young daughters and nervy pet rabbit, Rose. Keep your eye on the bunny. She’s important.

Sofie Gråbøl (Handout)
Sofie Gråbøl (Handout)

There’s a happy ending on the horizon, but Daneskov (who co-wrote the script) knows how to keep the audience on edge. In one of the sharpest scenes, Martin and Musa rock up in an “authentic” Viking colony where comely and smiley maidens serve up lashings of meat. Martin hits it off (or so he thinks) with one of these maidens. As in Ruben Östlund’s bleak satire, Force Majeure, the modern family guy is self-involved, insecure and craves compliments. We empathise with Martin, but a loyal sweetiepie he is not.

Bjerg is unshowily nuanced; like Britain’s Mark Addy, he’s twinkly eyed, yet allergic to buffoonery. Youssef is quietly confident, in an Idris Elba sort of way. Best of all, though, is Gråbøl, even though she appears in very few scenes.

That the actress’s part is so small may cause consternation amongst her British fans. Is her career approaching the doldrums zone? Not at all. She’s the star of Rose, a film, (directed by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Niels Arden Oplev), which just opened in Denmark, at No.1. Intriguing in its own right, Wild Men is a reminder that Gråbøl’s still out there and killing it.

104mins, cert 15. In cinemas

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