Review: ‘Deadline’

A workaholic crime reporter tracks down a mad bomber in "Deadline," British-born, Swedish-based helmer Colin Nutley's first stab at a thriller, based on one of the bestselling Swedish novels of the past decade. Pic emerges as more of a character study, diluting its appeal for offshore buyers seeking product for action-oriented markets.

A workaholic crime reporter tracks down a mad bomber in “Deadline,” British-born, Swedish-based helmer Colin Nutley’s first stab at a thriller, based on one of the bestselling Swedish novels of the past decade. However, by concentrating more on the personality of the protagonist (played as usual by Nutley’s actress wife, Helena Bergstrom) than on the main drama, pic emerges as more of a character study, diluting its appeal for offshore buyers seeking product for action-oriented markets. Still, the popularity of Nutley, Bergstrom and author Liza Marklund should result in hefty local B.O.

Annika Bengtzon (Bergstrom) is named chief crime reporter of the (fictional) Stockholm tabloid Kvallspressen, and lots of male colleagues, like old-timer Nils Langeby (Brasse Brannstrom), can’t wait for her to make a mistake. The fiery-tempered Annika is also disliked by some of the women, especially her own secretary, Eva-Britt Qvist (Maria Lundqvist).

Annika lives with civil servant Thomas Samuelssson (Niklas Hjulstrom) and their two kids. The family doesn’t see much of her, especially when she gets hooked on a story — and a sensational one arrives when the stadium where Sweden is to host the upcoming Olympic Games is bombed and a body is found among the rubble.

Victim turns out to be Christina Furhage (Marika Lindstrom), head of the Swedish Olympic Committee. Both the police and some of Annika’s colleagues believe one of the terrorist groups opposed to Sweden’s bid is responsible. Annika, however, thinks the bomber is someone close to Furhage.

She soon discovers the official picture of Furhage as generally liked is untrue. Even her own children, Olof (Jan Mybrand) and Lena (Tilde Froling), had reasons for wanting her dead. Furhage’s private secretary, Helena Starke (Gunilla Roor), turns out to have been her lover; and there’s also the lonely Beata Ekesjo (Pernilla August), who is in charge of Olympic venues.

But Annika’s theory is shattered when another venue is bombed and a man is killed. Meanwhile, her enemies at the paper scheme to get rid of her, despite the uncompromising support of her editor in chief, Anders Schyman (Orjan Ramberg).

The ending was weak in the original novel and remains so here, leaving several plot strands dangling and a killer whose motivation is not fully explained. Until then, however, “Deadline” functions well as a drama about a woman whose professional ambitions conflict with both her domestic life and the male colleagues who feel threatened by her.

Novelist Marklund worked for years as a reporter on Stockholm tabloid Expressen, and she knows the territory well. Bergstrom is convincing in the main role, conveying a sense of both Annika’s ambition and her desperation when she realizes how those she loves suffer the most because of her.

Most of the tabloid staff ring true, from the photographers to the cynical reporters and editors, although some come across as cardboard cliches.

Nutley has deliberately chosen a non-exploitative approach to the material, avoiding on-screen violence; the bombings are only shown via TV and newspaper headlines. On the tech side, regular d.p. Jens Fischer contribs his usually efficient work and editor Perry Schaffer alternates between hectic montages and Nutley’s long takes. Per Andreasson’s score is over-used, almost drowning out the dialogue in the first five minutes.

Deadline

Sweden

Production

A Svensk Filmindustri release of a Sweetwater production, in association with Svensk Filmindustri, TV4, Nordic Film & TV Fund, Jens Fischer Film. (International sales: SF, Stockholm.) Produced by Maritha Nordstedt. Directed by Colin Nutley. Screenplay, Nutley, Anna Fredriksson, Johanna Hald, based on the novel by Liza Marklund.

Crew

Camera (color), Jens Fischer; editor, Perry Schaffer; music, Per Andreasson; art director, Bengt Froderberg; costume designer, Hedvig Ander; sound (Dolby SR/DTS stereo), Bosse Persson, Lasse Liljeholm. Reviewed at Rigoletto, Stockholm, Oct. 18, 2001. Running time: 128 MIN.

With

Helena Bergstrom, Orjan Ramberg, Reine Brynolfsson, Brasse Brannstrom, Pernilla August, Niklas Hjulstrom, Ewa Froling, Maria Lundqvist, Tomas Ponten, Peter Andersson, Tomas Fryk, Jacob Ericksson, Nina Gunke, Gunilla Roor, Christer Fant, Marika Lindstrom, Per Svensson, Lars Goran Carlsson, Jan Mybrand, Meta Velander, Tilde Froling.
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