While the idea of coming into a big pile of cash is top of many a person’s wishlist, there are a whole bunch of movies that suggest, as the old saying goes, that money is the route of all evil. Take the Coen brothers as a prime example, their movies Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men, as well as Sam Raimi’s heavily Coen indebted A Simple Plan, all feature men tempted by easy money and pitted against one another through greed, not one of them living happily ever after on a sun drenched island paradise. The suitcase of cash has been a reliable plot point and source of mayhem in movies since movies began. This darkly comic tale, based on a story by Norwegian crime author John Nesbo, is of that same ilk, and the shadow of the Coen brothers in particular looms large.
Another useful frame of reference for Jackpot is The Usual Suspects, as it uses that movie’s structure of what appears to be the lone survivor of some heinous crime, recounting his tale to a detective via flashback. Oscar is discovered wedged under the body of a very dead, very large prostitute in the aftermath of a strip club shootout that has left eight dead and a trembling Oscar grasping a loaded shotgun. Later, during his interrogation by a local detective named Solor, Oscar tells of his and his three work colleague’s 1.7 million football pools win, and how dividing said winnings led to the pile of corpses and various body parts left in their wake.
As dark and bloody as this sounds, Jackpot is very much a comedy before anything else, an amusing, pitch black farce where mild embarrassment is replaced by violent deaths and gruesome dismemberments. To give too much away would certainly spoil it, the bizarre mystery being half the fun. We are presented with the gore soaked conclusion at the start, the how and why of the journey to this sorry end is where the enjoyment lies. Also key to this sense of fun is an excellent, perfectly performed cast of characters. Oscar (Kyrre Hellum), the nearest we have to a hero, is essentially a decent man, managing a low rent factory that only employs ex-offenders. These colourful scumbags take great delight in walking all over Oscar, bullying him into joining their pool, even forcing him to pay the deposit. As such, Hellum is very likeable and easy to relate to as Oscar, a typical good hearted everyman trapped in a nightmarish situation. His three associates are a different story. Bringing us back to the Coens for a second, the brothers have often tread a very fine line with their more treacherous characters, they need to be authentic and believable enough to relate to, but not SO real that the audience finds them repulsive. Jackpot pulls off this same trick nicely. The three villains of the piece are just ever so slightly off kilter without being cartoonish, rendering them amusingly nefarious and great fun to watch, but never hateful (Arthur Berning in particular makes an impact as Billy, the psycho of the group).
There are a few niggling problems. There’s a feeling that the full potential of the simple, tried and tested story and the excellent cast is never quite reached. It’s funny, but you feel it could have been funnier. It’s exciting at times, but not quite often enough. The twists and turns are surprising, but sometimes rely too much on coincidence and it gets a little convoluted. The direction and the score are effective at times, uninspired at others. There’s a real sense of a missed opportunity to make something magnificent, as opposed to something just good.
Jackpot is an enjoyable and amusing, if rather slight, pitch black comedy. Those of you with a particularly morbid, chilly sense of humour will get a kick out of it, but it never quite reaches the heights of similar fare that it feels indebted to.
Director: Magnus Martens
Stars: Kyrre Hellum, Mads Ousdal, Henrik Mestad