Sunday, 17 May 2015

In China they eat dogs (4½ Stars)

A tale of two brothers. Arvid Blixen is a loan adviser in a bank in Copenhagen. His brother Harald is a gangster who uses a restaurant as a legal front. The two live in the same city, but they haven't spoken for 10 years.

Arvid foils a bank robbery by hitting the robber over the head with a squash racket. He is celebrated in the press as a hero, but the day after the robbery the robber's girlfriend tells him that he has ruined their lives because the money was needed for artificial insemination. Arvid feels guilty about what he's done, so he enlists Harald's help in carrying out a new robbery to get money to help the couple. Then he decides to break the robber out of prison, also with Harald's help.

As a gangster film, this is incredible. The mix of crime and humour reminds me of "The Sopranos", which began shortly after the film. Harald Blixen also bears an uncanny resemblance to Tony Soprano in his appearance and mannerisms. The action is thrilling, and the humorous  scenes are never out of place.

I have two criticisms of the film. First of all, the final twist is so unexpected that it alienated me. It actually isn't a twist, it's an unexpected occurrence at the end. If you've seen the film you'll know what I mean. The other problem is the sound mixing. There is an extreme difference between the volume of the normal scenes with dialogue and the loud scenes with music and sound effects. This is a film that's impossible to listen to over headphones. If you turn the volume up loud enough to enjoy the quiet scenes you will be deafened by the music, gunshots and explosions.

The film was so successful at the box office, the biggest earning Danish film ever, that the studios decided to cash in by making a sequel. Unfortunately, all the main characters die at the end of this film -- sorry for the spoiler -- so the second film, "Old men in new cars", was made as a prequel.

In case you're wondering what the title has to do with the film, it's a statement of moral relativism. There is no absolute right or wrong. In China they eat dogs, which is considered horrific in Europe. And robbing a bank might be a good deed, depending on the motives.

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