Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Mads Mikkelsen stars in Nicolas Winding Refn's VALHALLA RISING
VALHALLA RISING, is the latest from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (below), who last year gave us the charmingly oddball and also very violent Bronson. The setting here is Europe in the... well, it looked to me like the 12th or 13th or maybe 14th century. We know it's A.D. because there's some nasty Christian vs Pagan stuff going on. (Don't expect the intelligence of Agora, however; this is all just a good excuse for various bouts of to-the-death fighting.)
Colosseum, however. This is low-budget stuff: two guys in a dirt circle observed by a few onlookers. Since one of the two is our star, the always dead-on Mads Mikkelsen (below, tattooed and shirtless), we kind of know who the winner will be. Mr. Mikklesen, who played a villain with a bleeding eye in Casino Royale, here plays a hero with one eye scarred shut. Which matters not a bit. Lean, muscular, mute and possessed with strong native intelligence, One Eye (as the IMDB cast list calls him) is sumpin' else.
Maarten Stevenson, below left) who has provided him a bit of sustenance, One Eye and his new pal go on a journey that has them meeting up with some guys who are supposed to be Norseman but sound like they're from Scotland (the language of the film is English, and the actors are, I guess, just using their native tongue). More fights ensue, the men take to the sea, the wind stops, blame descends upon our poor pair (they're pagan, dontcha know) but then those winds start up again and whoosh, we've landed in what looks very much like pre-Christopher Columbus America. And where is Terrence Malick when you need him?
After the Wedding, villain in Casino Royale, troub-
led war hero in Flame and Citron, his co-title role in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, and this little number. As an angry warrior in the recent Clash of the Titans remake, he alone in the cast of macho males managed to bring some gravitas to the proceedings. ("Clash," by the way, is a much more entertaining movie than most of my compatriots let on: So much fun in fact, that I think I'll have to devote a post to it around the time of its DVD release).
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself or Adam's Apples or Torremolinos 73 for further proof), it's clear that Mad's the man: a go-to guy for just about any role you can think up. And he's really the only reason to visit Valhalla. This movie, full of gorgeous visuals (below) that were probably done at 1/100 the budget of most Hollywood sagas, defines "pretentious." It has almost nothing to say, except the most obvious, about any of the subjects it covers -- religion, bonding, fighting, exploration, solitude. At 93 minutes, it feels like twice that length yet offers enough actual content to fill only half
its running time.
IFC Films, opens Friday, July 16, in theaters and via IFC On-Demand.