Review: ‘No Is No Answer’

Just as the ranks of Tarantino wannabes seemed to be in retreat at this year's Sundance fest, their numbers continue to swell outside U.S. shores. The latest entry is Icelandic ultra-low-budget comedic crime thriller "No Is No Answer," laced with gobs of nihilistic violence, loads of pop culture references , self-referential dialogue and the requisite black humor. With a running time too short for feature presentation, pic is mildly diverting but too derivative for auds outside Icelandic college kids and sociologists in search of yet more proof that American culture continues to supplant distinctive regional voices.

Just as the ranks of Tarantino wannabes seemed to be in retreat at this year’s Sundance fest, their numbers continue to swell outside U.S. shores. The latest entry is Icelandic ultra-low-budget comedic crime thriller “No Is No Answer,” laced with gobs of nihilistic violence, loads of pop culture references , self-referential dialogue and the requisite black humor. With a running time too short for feature presentation, pic is mildly diverting but too derivative for auds outside Icelandic college kids and sociologists in search of yet more proof that American culture continues to supplant distinctive regional voices.

Pic’s thin plot revolves around two 20-ish sisters, Sigga (Heidrun Anna Bjornsdottir) and Didi (Ingibjorg Stefansdottir), who strive in best “Thelma & Louise” fashion to break free of social restrictions. Rather than building a constructive, thoughtful approach to liberation, “No” chooses to cover the more raucous and commercially driven revisionist exploitation turf that appeared at least somewhat fresh in the earlier film.

Sigga is the more reserved half of the twosome, while Didi is a felonious rebel who is determined to break out of Iceland and make her way to Florida. While partying in Reykjavik, the duo rip off money and LSD from two nameless drug dealers (Roy Scott and Michael Liebman), and spend the rest of the film being pursued by the dealers and assorted crime figures.

There is much dancing, waving of large weapons, cursing and running down city streets, with pauses taken only to create set pieces taken straight from the “Reservoir Dogs” playbook. One blatant rip-off involvesa hostage torture scene, brightened by such de rigueur neo-noir dialogue as “I don’t know why I’m here! I don’t know why Hendrix had to die and Barry Manilow had to live!”

Utilizing a bare-bones, one-scene/one-take approach, “No” has a surprisingly non-gritty and nonrealistic feel due to its preponderance of cliches borrowed from other entries in the already tired neo-noir genre. Since pic’s director, Jon Tryggvason, was educated at NYU before toiling on commercials and rock videos, and co-screenwriter Marteinn Thorisson attended USC, the trail of influences is as easy to follow as the perfunctory script points.

While film boasts energetic perfs by the two female leads and is resourcefully shot for a reported $ 150,000, “No” is clearly not the answer to the question of how Euro cinema should respond to the dominance of American cinematic products. If originality is the key to successful film exports, this kind of pic is destined to be frozen and kept only for domestic consumption.

No Is No Answer

(ICELANDIC)

Production

A Glansmyndir production in cooperation with Nordic Screen Development and RUV. Produced by Jon Tryggvason, Petter Borgli, Ulfur Hrobjartsson. Directed by Jon Tryggvason. Screenplay, Tryggvason, Marteinn Thorisson.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Hrobjartsson; music, Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson; set design, Snorri F. Hilmarsson; sound, Thorvar Hafsteinsson. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden, Feb. 10, 1996. Running time: 73 MIN.

With

With: Heidrun Anna Bjornsdottir, Ingibjorg Stefansdottir, Roy Scott, Michael Liebman, Skuli Gautason, Ari Matthiasson.
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