The Swedish film industry isn’t exactly known for their action movies, but after credible shoot-em-ups such as “Ranarna” (“The Robbers”) and “Executive Protection”, there seems to be an interest in widening the scope of what can be called “Swedish films”. “Hotet” (“The Threat” in English) follows along the lines of “Ranarna” rather than “Protection”, in that it looks to have a reasonably high budget (as least by Swedish film industry standards), and the storyline would seem more comfortable in a Jerry Bruckheimer Hollywood actioner starring Nicholas Cage or one of those pretty boy actors currently in his stable. Alas, while the storyline seems to contain some kernel of ambition, the narrative as envisioned by the writers of “Hotet” and director Kjell Sundvall is less than thrilling.
“Hotet” concerns hapless military computer guy Lasse (Shanti Roney), a happily married family man with one 8-year old tyke and a hot wife (Maria Bonnevie) who is pregnant with their second child. Lasse works for the Swedish military, and is involved in the creation and testing of a high-tech device that allows fighter jets to avoid radar detection, or some such. The movie really doesn’t go into any great detail concerning the device, not that it matters, as the EVS or EWS or whatever it’s called is simply nothing more than a McGuffin — the device/object/goal that sets the movie’s plots in motion. To wit: Lasse is approached by some unsavory mercenary types led by an English speaking Jacek (Dejan Cukic), who wants Lasse to help him steal the high-tech doohickey.
To convince Lasse, Jacek shows that he has intimate knowledge of Lasse’s activities and relatives, and even reveals that Lasse’s wife was pregnant and had a miscarriage, two things Lasse didn’t have a clue about. Lasse reluctantly does Jacek’s bidding (although getting brow beat by his wife to go along with the bad guys probably didn’t help to steel his resolve), but proves to be just a bit smarter than the villains, and manages to prevent the theft of the McGuffin, if just barely. Further complicating Lasse’s stressful situation is Major Haglund (Stefan Sauk, who was also in “Ranarna”), a military commando/spook sent to oversee an important upcoming NATO missile test. A courtesy scene reveals that Haglund is a wayward father, and he’s taken the job only because he wants to re-insert himself into his now-adult daughter’s life. It’s pathos, doncha know.
Much of “Hotet” depends on exposition, and it’s rather amazing just how little of said exposition the film provides. It’s not as if the filmmakers were going for subtlety or asking the audience to think for themselves; they simply have left gaping plot holes in the wake of their story, and don’t seem overly concern that a lot of stuff happens in “Hotet” that are never explained or followed up on. As such, when Haglund and Jacek finally meets up at the end of the movie, we get an awkward bit of exposition about how the two knew each other from way back, and that Haglund has been after Jacek all this time. Funny, because that never came up until Haglund told us. Why, it’s almost as if the writers made it up on the spot.
In a movie like “Hotet”, the villains make the movie, especially since the hero is basically a bumbling computer nerd who never shows an ability to protect himself, and never develops such ability throughout the film. Haglund, the anti-hero, is supposed to be a tough ex-Special Forces man, but he mostly spends the movie skulking about looking mean. Not that the bad guys are any more impressionable. Jacek wants to steal the McGuffin, probably to sell it (it’s never explained why he wants it), and he’s hired some Swedish mercs to help him. Except there are only three mercs, and they’re as imposing as Frosty the Snowman.
The film’s most hilarious sequence (albeit unintentionally) involves the bad guys trying to get away on snowmobiles as Haglund and his super duper Special Forces guys give chase via helicopters. The sequence goes on for way too long, ending with one group of bad guys riding off a cliff and another crashing. Instead of arresting the bad guys and interrogating them for answers, Haglund and his men murders them in cold blood right there in the snow. Not that the rest of the film makes any more sense, mind you. There are about two sequences that can justifiably be called action scenes in the whole movie, and one is that snowmobile chase mentioned above. The other takes place at the end, but like the snowmobile, it’s drawn out and as thrilling as watching paint dry.
As an action movie, “Hotet” fails badly. The film barely manages any reasonable tension, especially since the bad guys are dumber than Anna Nicole Smith stuffing her face with pepperoni pizza. After Lasse foils their plan with a bit of quick thinking, Jacek and the mercs turn on one another because the mercs demand more money. Soon Jacek finds himself alone, but still determined to grab that McGuffin. With the bad guys (well, bad guy now) still after him, Lasse grabs his family and whisks them into the countryside, where he puts his shotgun-toting geriatric father-in-law in charge of protecting his precious wife and kid. Yes, it’s true; Lasse may know a lot about computers, but this guy has the common sense of a rock.
If I’m giving the impression that “Hotet” is a bad, bad movie, you’re not wrong. It fails miserably as an action film, and can’t even be bothered to be mildly interesting in-between the cursory two or so action sequences. There’s no character development for Lasse at all, and what little contrived pathos that gets tossed Haglund’s way comes across as an afterthought. A better casting choice would have been to make Sauk, with his bellicose face and personality, the bad guy and Cukic, with his babyface and smirks, one of the good guys. Jacek, as assayed by Dejan Cukic, is such a lousy bad guy that Hans Gruber would shoot him in the back just out of spite.
On the plus side, the film is technically well done, and the (relatively) big budget shows. The Swedish countryside gets a lot of well-deserved exposure, but unfortunately “Hotet” is a movie, and not a travel guide. Who knows? It might have worked better as a brochure for tourists to visit Sweden. It certainly looks like a fine place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to stay there for the movies.
If “Ranarna” and “Executive Protection” furthered the advances of Swedish action movies, then “Hotet” just took the Swedish film industry about five steps backwards. It’s simply not a very good film, with lackluster performances from leading man Shanti Roney right down to the lovely Maria Bonnevie. In fact, the movie is such a waste of time that its best moment is near the end, when bad guy Jacek decides that he, too, thinks Maria Bonnevie is quite a looker, and starts groping her. That was unexpected, but pretty funny.
Kjell Sundvall (director)
CAST: Shanti Roney …. Lasse Brunell
Maria Bonnevie …. Inger Brunell
Stefan Sauk …. Maj. Christer Haglund
Dejan Cukic …. Jacek
Axel Zuber …. Niklas
Peter Franz’n …. Magnus
GÃ¶ran Ragnerstam …. Maj. Lundgren