With only a bow and arrow, a furry Dane (Rasmus Bjerg) chases wild animals in a forest. It’s challenging terrain and the statue-like Scandinavian figure sinks to the ground in relief when he spots a clue to a potential food source (a discarded ice cream wrapper). Before you can say Odin Schmodin, Martin (Rasmus Bjerg), is at a gas station, loaded with chips and beer.
Martin is what you might call a malleable Viking. Thomas Daneskov’s witty humour (which will probably work well in Robert Eggers’ double-action film The Northman) is about anger, hand-to-hand violence, and the danger of buying into simple ideologies. Bored and troubled Martin, a white-collar worker in his 40s, has snuck to Norway. He cuddles about tough men who need to stick together, instantly bonding with Dane, the wounded Musa (Zaki Youssef), who we know is a drug dealer, but who Martin assumes is a charming traitor.
The odd couple walks/humbles through the beautiful mountain scenery, being chased by the police led by the stern Sheriff, Oyvind (Bjørn Sundquist). Also prominent in the couple’s path are Musa’s two dodgy co-workers, plus Martin’s family, namely his heartbroken wife, (Sofie Gråbøl, in The Killing), two young daughters, and children. Pet rabbit is sick, Rose. Keep an eye on the rabbit. She is important.
There’s a happy ending ahead, but Daneskov (who co-wrote the script) knows how to keep the audience’s attention. In one of the sharpest shots, Martin and Musa roam around in an “authentic” Viking colony, where humorous and laughable maidens serve morsels of meat. Martin hit it (or so he thought) with one of these girls. As in Ruben Östlund’s sombre satire, Force Majeure, the modern family guy lives aloof, insecure, and hungry for praise. We sympathize with Martin, but he is a loyal lover not.
Bjerg has uncomplicated shades; like England’s Mark Addy, he has sparkling eyes, but is allergic to junk food. Youssef was quietly confident, in an Idris Elba way. Best of all is Gråbøl, although she appears in very few scenes.
The fact that the actress plays the role so small may surprise her British fans. Is her career heading into the doldrums? Nothing. She is the star of the film Rose (directed by Niels Arden Oplev of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), which just opened in Denmark, at No.1. Fascinating in its own right, Wild Men is a reminder that Gråbøl is still there and killing it.
104 min, cert 15. In the cinema