Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgard - Good Will Hunting
, Mamma Mia!
) is a somewhat gentle man, as far as gangsters go. Reluctantly back on the streets following a stint in prison, Ulrik's boss greets him with open arms and a plan to settle an old score. With a demented sense of professional pride, Ulrik's boss sets in motion a plan to right the wrong done to his star employee. The problem is Ulrik would rather go about his own business, however mundane, than get involved with his ragtag colleagues again. This dark feel good comedy delivers laughs and gasps in equal measure. In Norwegian with English Subtitles
As the title promises, Stellan Skarsgård plays a somewhat gentle man in this deadpan Norwegian comedy. After 12 years behind bars for murder, Skarsgård's Ulrik, whose ratty ponytail contributes to his sad-sack demeanor, reunites with crime boss Jensen (Bjørn Floberg, Skarsgård's Insomnia
nemesis), who sets him up with a mechanic gig and a rented room. Unfortunately, his favors don't come for free: Jensen expects Ulrik to kill the snitch who reported his crime, except his legit new life keeps getting in the way. First, his stone-faced landlady expects sexual favors for her hospitality, which Ulrik dutifully obliges. Then, he reconnects with his estranged son, whose fiancée is expecting their first child. When the garage manager, who has a heart condition, ends up in the hospital, Ulrik steps in to run the joint with blunt bookkeeper Merete. After he rescues her from an abusive ex, she asks him out. Though his supervisor warned him to keep his dealings with her professional, Ulrik can't resist, thus putting his job in jeopardy. At that point, everything falls apart, and Ulrik grudgingly returns to the criminal life, knowing it will only push his son further away. From start to finish, Skarsgård makes all the right moves, though the script lets him down whenever a depressed woman flings herself at him, resulting in some seriously un-sexy sex scenes, but Hans Petter Moland, who directed the Swedish actor in Zero Kelvin
, wraps up Ulrik's moral quandary in dramatically satisfying and darkly amusing fashion. --Kathleen C. Fennessy