At the beginning of Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance, our protagonist Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgård) is seen accepting the “Citizen of the Year” award in his Norwegian mountain community. A snowplow driver by profession, he maintains a simple, diligent lifestyle with his wife and son. But the honor bestowed upon him soon becomes a source of irony when an unexpected tragedy changes turns him into a ruthless avenger in this unrelenting, dark crime drama.
In a case of mistaken identity, Dickman learns that his son has been murdered by the henchmen of a local drug lord named “The Count”. While his wife is shell-shocked by the news, Dickman is unable to let the deed go unpunished, rounding up his own artillery to exact revenge on the men responsible. Like a classic western hero he is determined to seek retribution and justice, scouring the landscape and using his wits to carry out his mission. Dickman’s plan turns out to be more complicated however, as his actions help to stir up an underground drug war between rival gangs. A cycle of bloody killings ensues, forcing Dickman to fight not only for revenge, but for his own survival.
Indeed, In Order of Disappearance is not for the faint of heart, with each murder as cold-blooded and startling as the next. Some may even find the narrative to be too narrow-minded in its bloodlust. But the film is entertaining throughout, maintaining a brisk pacing segmented by inter-titles indicating the literal “order of disappearance” as the death toll rises. And there are even some dryly humorous moments, especially in Dickman’s unorthodox method of disposing his victim’s bodies).
What the film lacks in narrative complexity however, it makes up for in its strong execution of the genre tropes and various filmmaking styles it clearly references. In addition to Dickman, the ensemble is a collection of mean, nicknamed characters worthy of Scorsese or Tarantino. The frequently gorgeous cinematography and overall tone is also reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, using the snow-covered landscape as the perfect blank canvas to be painted red by all the action.
But most importantly, it features a quietly badass hero – or antihero – we can all get behind. More familiar to American audiences as a character actor, Stellan Skarsgård shows his movie star chops with a steely, captivating performance. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And this grisly, visceral film certainly delivers.
In Order of Disappearance opens in select theaters August 26, 2016.