Review: ‘Falcons’

The Coen brothers would have a ball with the extremely unlikely oddities of "Falcons" -- but as a comedy. As a drama fashioned by Iceland's Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, pic is a confused assemblage that takes itself much too seriously. As the first Icelandic production shot mainly in English, this northern adventure breaks its own artistic back.

The Coen brothers would have a ball with the extremely unlikely oddities of “Falcons” — but as a comedy. As a drama fashioned by Iceland’s Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, pic is a confused assemblage that takes itself much too seriously. As the first Icelandic production shot mainly in English, this northern adventure breaks its own artistic back by centering on Yank star Keith Carradine and pushing Icelandic life to the background. Neither lingo nor star, however, will make pic fly in any English-speaking territory.

Always armed with a stunning eye for the landscape of his fascinating home island, Fridriksson at first suggests through his helming the cross-culture expanse of his 1995 “Cold Fever.” American ex-con Simon (Carradine) lands at Reykjavik’s airport to re-visit his ancestral home. Away from Iceland for 30 years, Simon has only the vaguest of reasons for coming, until it looks like he’s here to commit suicide.

Fridriksson and editor Sigvaldi J. Karason smoothly cut between Simon and Johann (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson), an oppressive-seeming local cop, and an odd-duck performance artist named Dua (Margret Vilhjalmsdottir), house-sitting for her hospitalized uncle.

Simon spots a TV report about falcon-poaching as a criminal but lucrative biz, and it so happens that Dua is nursing a falcon back to health. When Johann forces himself on Dua, threatening to arrest her for keeping the falcon, it sets off a contrived string of actions that increasingly defy credibility.

As Simon and Dua flee Iceland with caged falcon in tow, pic takes on the form of an aimless road movie, quite different from “Cold Fever’s” single-minded travelling tale. Both characters become profoundly exasperating, whether it’s Dua virtually throwing away what little cash she has or Simon wending his way from Iceland to Germany with utterly no idea how he’ll sell the bird. Script by Einar Karason and Fridriksson eventually gives way to a latter-reel set of noirish shenanigans in Hamburg that, at best, poorly imitate American crime pic cliches.

Carradine, who’s more handsome than ever, would appear ideal as a hardened ex-con looking for life’s meaning yet succumbing to low temptations, but his performance is dampened by the whole conception of the film. Much is made of Dua’s “flighty” nature and her love of astrology, but Vilhjalmsdottir’s perf is the most grounded of the bunch. As the heavy, Sigurdsson overdoes it at every stretch.

Consistently beautiful, pic is best as a widescreen look at Icelandic towns and landscapes. Tech package is top-flight, but Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson’s guitar score is soporific.

Falcons

Iceland-U.K.-Norway-Germany-France

Production

A Bavaria Film Intl. presentation of an Icelandic Film Corp./Filmhuset AS/Peter Rommel Prods./Film & Music Entertainment Ltd. Production in cooperation with Invicta Capital Ltd., ZDF/Arte. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Geiselgasteig, Germany. ) Produced by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Peter Rommel, Egil Odegaard, Anna Maria Karlsdottir, Mike Downey, Sam Taylor. Executive producer, Fridriksson. Directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. Screenplay, Einar Karason, Fridriksson.

Crew

Camera (Atlantic Film Kopierwerk color, widescreen), Harald Paalgard; editor, Sigvaldi J. Karason; music, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson; production designer, Arni Pall Johansson; costume designer, Helga I. Stefansdottir; sound (Dolby Digital), Kjartan Kjartansson. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 6, 2002. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Keith Carradine, Margret Vilhjalmsdottir, Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Petur Olafsson, Magnus Olafsson. (English, Icelandic dialogue)
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