Sunday, May 27, 2012

Charlotte Brändström/Hans Rosenfeldt's version of Henning Mankell's WALLANDER: THE REVENGE opens in NYC & Los Angeles

Made for Swedish television, which, if this particular 90-minute episode is any indication, is better and more adult than American network TV (are we surprised?), HENNING MANKELL'S WALLANDER: THE REVENGE (that'll fill or kill a marquee!) is also better than the ersatz-Swedish version that starred Kenneth Branagh and aired here a couple of years ago via Public Television. Why? The first thing you'll notice is that this film is much less glossy. A sense of reality hangs over everything from police headquarters and individual domiciles to the quiet (until very recently) little town itself.

This film is said to be the first episode of the original Swedish Wallander series, and its director, Charlotte Brändström (shown at right), and writer, Hans Rosenfeldt, do a good job of introducing the characters, as well as bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion, while leaving just enough interesting loose ends to make us want to continue watching. Which is handy, since the movie's theatrical distributor, Music Box Films, this past Friday released to VOD, iTunes, Amazon and Vudu thirteen of these Wallander "movies" for our further delectation. DVD versions will be available this coming Tuesday, May 29.

Bad things suddenly happen in the town in which Wallander abides -- explosions, murders -- at the same time as a controversial (read Muslim) museum exhibit is opening. The question of terrorism immediately rises, the army is called in, and politicians get into the act. What is going on -- and why?

As police-procedurals go, this particular Wallander is a pretty good one: relatively fast-moving, but never too fast to omit the smart detail or character trait that helps enrich the whole. And the character of Wallander himself is brought to life so much better than did the PBS version. Kenneth Branagh is a fine actor, but he was spotlighted far too heavily in that series and finally made to seem like such an icon that his every moment and move had to register strongly. Too strongly. Krister Henriksson (shown above), the Wallander of this series, plays his character as simply a man: decent, old-fashioned (he's got some things to learn about today's women), brave, and intelligent but no Einstein. He surrounds himself with good people and makes the best use of them. Henriksson gives a quiet and increasingly strong performance. He's memorable without ever being showy.

The only other "known" cast member to most Americans will be Lena Endre, at right, who plays the Swedish equivalent of a district attorney who must work with Wallander. She's lovely -- and as watchable as ever.

Perfectly good entertainment on any level, this Wallander still has the look and feel of television. But if you're hankering for a big-screen movie experience, it'll be opening on either coast: this coming Friday, June 1, in New York City at the Cinema Village, and on Friday, June 8, in the Los Angeles area at the Laemmle Music Hall 3.

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