Mark Reviews Movies

Jackpot (2014)

JACKPOT (2014)

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Magnus Martens

Cast: Kyrre Hellum, Mads Ousdal, Henrik Mestad, Arthur Berning, Andreas Cappelen, Fridtjov Såheim, Peter Andersson, Lena Kristin Ellingsen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 1:25

Release Date: 6/27/14 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 26, 2014

Here is a mean-spirited movie about bad-hearted people in which the central question seems to be which of these characters is the nastiest of the lot. Is it the one who jokingly threatens the supervisor at his new job with a pneumatic nail gun on his first day at work? Is it the guy who decides it would be funny to treat the corpse of a murdered acquaintance like a puppet in order to scare his best and only friend? Is it the character who decides that the most effective way to dispose of a body is to shove it into a grinding waste disposal machine that churns out small, fake Christmas trees? Through a bit of obvious narrative chicanery, Jackpot does get around to answering that question, but we can't help but think that maybe it would be better if it hadn't been asked in the first place.

Then, at least, we wouldn't have had to spend time with this group of lethal scalawags—guys who treat murder like a game. It's sort of a natural extension of the way they celebrate. A bottle or two over the head and a "punch me in the stomach" contest over here inevitably lead to a game of "find our former buddy's decapitated head, which has rolled into a ditch on the side of the road" over there.

One might think that this criticism is a case of getting up on a moral high horse. The more appropriate description of being uncomfortable with this movie's treatment of death and carnage is getting up on a moral pony.

It's not a fine line between violence presented in bad taste and violence presented in a beneficial way. A movie can condemn violence, even as its characters revel in it; a movie can take a sick sense of pleasure in graphic bloodletting because its characters realize the consequences to one degree or another. Here, we have characters who are playful about senseless killing in a movie that appears to be having even more fun than they are.

The main question of the plot is how Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) came to be the sole survivor of a mass murder at an adult toy store/strip club. Eight people were killed in a bloodbath of shotgun blasts and assault rifle rounds, and Detective Solør (Henrik Mestad) wants Oscar to tell him about the circumstances that led to the slaughter.

This leads to a series of flashbacks centering on how Oscar, Thor (Mads Ousdal), Billy (Arthur Berning), and Dan (Andreas Cappelen) win over 1.5 million kroner by taking advantage of an as-seen-on-TV betting system. Oscar is the supervisor at a Christmas tree factory that hires ex-convicts, and the other three—all ex-convicts—strong-arm him into participating.

The movie is full of intentional gaps in logic because we're watching someone's memories of events. Here's one the movie doesn't consider: Oscar changes the bet at last minute because a cute barista (Lena Kristin Ellingsen) makes a vague suggestion that the team is going to have to tie sooner or later. Imagine being in Oscar's shoes for a moment, and then try to figure out how you're going to explain to them—one of whom has already put a nail gun to your head—that they missed out on being rich because of advice from some anonymous woman. Something says you're going to stick with the bet as originally planned.

Anyway, they win, and the rest of the movie observes as each one is killed by one or more of the others and the corpse of each victim is defiled by the survivors. They try to dump one body out the back window of Oscar's apartment because his landlord (Fridtjov Såheim) is a retired cop, but the opening is too narrow. The answer is to hack up the body into pieces, which leads to scene where they joke around about where to start the dismemberment and climaxes in an arterial spray of the red stuff. It also sets up a Chekhov's Dismembered Finger gag that ultimately results in a gag reflex.

We're expected to be accomplices to all this gruesome mayhem, wondering how these creeps are going to avoid being caught. Beyond the fact that this is a morally unsettlingly position (especially so after the movie's final twist), it's structurally unsound. The screenplay by director Magnus Martens (from a story by Jo Nesbø) starts with us knowing that at least one of the participants has escaped to the story's key point without being caught, which means the suspense is in the movie's promise of a new horror show every time a participant is killed and a body needs to disappear. Jackpot believes this to be an enticing proposition. It's not.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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