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I read somewhere that those who enjoy the directorial work of Anders Thomas Jensen might find themselves enjoying Sorte Kugler. A servile follower of Jensen, I sought this one, the debut of star Anders Mattheson, out immediately.
Negative, anger prone, and downright rude, Alex Klein is a real estate agent with serious financial problems and a job he's very likely to lose. His problems are solved when, rather extemporaneously, he dies. Finding himself in a strange pseudo-purgatorial gameshow, he is given the chance to win back his life by overcoming his character flaws.
Beginning seriously, with Klein presented as a straight faced and talented salesman, it's not long before we see things quickly revealing themselves. The facade of professionalism soon dissolves to reveal the sardonic and irreverent bitterness which henceforth fills the film. Klein's meanness is consistently amusing, a particular scene in which he firmly demands correct grammar from a friend's casual anecdote deliciously witty. Mattheson's delivery is genuine, sharp, and very funny, making his character more irritatingly irritable by the second. Once we move to the afterlife, however, things take a turn for the worse. The baffling strangeness of the scenes which follow is quite perplexing, as I much assume it intends to be at first. The humour now comes from a variety of sources, none of which match the quality of the original curmudgeonly splendour of Mattheson's ramblings. The scenarios he is placed in by the gameshow are never hilarious, nor are the scenes with its host. It would have worked out a far funnier experience to simply fill the film with Klein behaving in his horrid manner. No narrative structure per-se, granted, but certainly funnier. As it does transpire, we follow a half hour or so of considerable comic potential with an hour of general mediocrity, mixing the occasional laugh with plenty of instances of dead and flat humour, giving the impression of trying too hard. The ending is not bad, even spurning a few laughs, though not particularly great either.
After a very strong start offering the sort of black humour admittedly recalling Jensen's work, Sorte Kugler digs itself into a hole it contentedly remains seated in. Failing to live up to the high standard it originally sets, it proves very disappointing, though not unenjoyable.
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