Wallander: The Revenge (2009)

aka Mankell’s Wallander: Hämnden

2010 #40
Charlotte Brändström | 89 mins | TV | 15

Krister Henriksson returns as the titular Swedish detective for a second — and final — series of feature-length investigations, though this time only this first has received a theatrical release (which means it’s likely the only one I’ll review, unless the series finale offers something that persuades me otherwise).

This Swedish series (there’s another, incidentally) is most often praised for its calmer, low-key, realist aesthetic, as opposed to the British adaptations’ tendency to turgidly-paced over-stylised over-emotion, but the handful of cinema-released entries tend away from this, no doubt in justification of their big-screen debuts. So rather than a thoughtful investigation into an ‘everyday’ murder, Wallander blazes back onto our screens with the explosive destruction of a power station, a bloody execution — no less than 17 shots fired — and the army rolling into town to handle the fall-out from an extended power cut. Epic, indeed.

What continues to mark Wallander out is the attention to character and detail it shows even while there are large-scale events going on all around. There’s clearly an effort to keep everything grounded and moderately realistic even as more bombs go off and more symbolic executions are, er, executed — the police still have to struggle with a waiting room packed with people wanting to complain about the odd abandoned car or just moan about the lack of power, for example.

The climax is a case in point. There’s no grand shoot-out or serious race-against-time-for-the-last-bomb, just Wallander and the criminal having a calm chat. OK, so there’s a kidnapped government minister, a gun, snipers and a big vest-bomb, but these are set dressing to the conversation. It’s proof if proof were needed (it isn’t) of Henriksson’s controlled skill in this role. As great as Branagh could be, it’s hard to imagine his introspective interpretation of a weepy Wallander slotting into this scene without making it unpleasantly histrionic.

In the series’ first season (and, therefore, the first three theatrical releases), Wallander’s policewoman daughter, Linda, played an equally important role — indeed, in several episodes, including the first, she had a much larger presence than her father. Actress Johanna Sällström sadly took her own life in 2007 and the role is wisely not re-cast; a passing reference is made to the fact Wallander has a daughter, though where she is now isn’t mentioned. It’s easy for one to imagine a future for Linda in the wake of the shocking events of the previous episode, so perhaps the understated style of this Wallander is to leave viewers to their own conclusions.

However, the departure of Linda and death of fellow lead character Stefan leaves a hole to fill. It’s partly done by the return of Martinsson, not seen since Mastermind, but also by adding two new recruits to Wallander’s team, Isabelle (Nina Zanjani) and Pontus (Sverrir Gudnason), and the introduction of prosecutor Katrina (Lena Endre). All are set up as key new characters for this run, though it’s clearly Only The Beginning here. Katrina is a little too blatantly a potential love interest for Wallander, while Isabelle and Pontus are… well, new characters. There’s little to say about them yet.

I suppose it’s this kind of thing that reminds one that The Revenge isn’t really a standalone Wallander movie, but the first episode of a 13-part series. Still, it can certainly be enjoyed in isolation, and it promises the new run will maintain the first’s high quality — perhaps even better it.

4 out of 5

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