Review: ‘Dark Horse’

A disappointing follow-up to helmer's quirky debut hit "Noi the Albino," Icelander Dagur Kari's Danish-language pic "Dark Horse" is a shapeless mass of ideas that, much like its slacker hero, doesn't go anywhere interesting. Novelty of black-and-white lensing plus quirky humor could help stable "Horse" at further fests, but it looks destined for an even smaller B.O. stall than its niche-release predecessor.

A disappointing follow-up to helmer’s quirky debut hit “Noi the Albino,” Icelander Dagur Kari’s Danish-language pic “Dark Horse” is a shapeless mass of ideas that, much like its slacker hero, doesn’t go anywhere interesting. Although “Noi” was similarly character-driven, it motored toward a dramatically coherent climax. Latest pic, however, drives itself into a narrative cul-de-sac and requires a banal last-act twist to maneuver itself out. Novelty of black-and-white lensing plus quirky humor could help stable “Horse” at further fests, but it looks destined for an even smaller B.O. stall than its niche-release predecessor.

A taxman (Mikael Bertelsen) grills handsome but shiftless Daniel (Jakob Cedergren) for having claimed an income of only seven euros over the last two years. Daniel in fact uses graffiti to earn cash, writing girls’ names on walls on commission for romantic lovers. He spends much of his time tooling around Copenhagen in his dinky Fiat and hanging out with his chubby best-friend Roger, aka Grandpa (Nicolas Bro, “The Green Butchers”).

Grandpa, who works in a sleep clinic and wants to be a football referee, has fallen for local bakery shop employee Franc (Tilly Scott Pedersen), but it’s Daniel who ends up scoring with her after he helps her home one day when she gets too out of it on magic mushrooms at work.

The two eventually move into her grandmother’s (Asta Esper Andersen) house together when the sweet old lady suddenly dies, an offscreen death which pic doesn’t quite seem to know how to treat –as tragedy or black comedy.

Assorted eccentric characters flit through the proceedings, including Grandpa’s sleazy co-worker Tejs (Nicolaj Kopernikus), Franc’s mom (Bodil Jorgensen, playing a similar space cadet to her lead character in Lars von Trier’s “The Idiots”), and the judge (Morten Suurballe), who sentences Daniel to community service after he’s busted for graffiti writing.

Daniel’s semi-nervous breakdown, which manifests itself in shoplifting and dodging work, offers a looking-glass inversion of Daniel’s ascent into adult responsibility, but is not satisfactorily resolved.

Decision to break pic up into cutely named chapters (called “Daniel vs. the System,” “Red Card,” etc.) suggests post-production attempt to endow rambling, underdeveloped plot with structure, even though the chapter breaks sometimes come in the middle of a scene.

Nevertheless, dialogue in some segs manages to amuse in a sub-Kevin Smith, early-Richard Linklater way, particularly a scene where a Daniel discovers his meager possessions are being sold off at a makeshift flea market by his landlord’s kid.

Black-and-white lensing by Manuel Alberto Claro looks underlit and often more muddy than it ought, and morphs in just one shot into color for a crucial moment. Score by helmer’s own band slowblow overplays offbeat quality.

Dark Horse

Denmark-Iceland

Production

A Nimbus Film production, in association with Zentropa Entertainments, DR TV-Drama, Danish Broadcasting Corp. (Denmark)/Zik Zak Filmworks EHF (Iceland). (International sales: Trust, Copenhagen.) Produced by Birgitte Skov, Morten Kaufmann. Executive producers, Bo Ehrhardt, Birgitte Hald. Co-producers, Skuli Fr. Malmquist, Thor S. Sigurjonsson. Directed by Dagur Kari. Screenplay, Kari, Rune Schjott.

Crew

Camera (B&W and color), Manuel Alberto Claro; editor, Daniel Dencik; music, slowblow ; production designer, Nikolaj Danielsen; sound (Dolby Digital), Petur Einarsson. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 14, 2005. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Jakob Cedergren, Tilly Scott Pedersen, Nicolas Bro, Morten Suurballe, Nicolaj Kopernikus, Bodil Jorgensen, Anders Hove, Kristian Halken, Michelle Bjorn-Andersen, Mikael Bertelsen, Asta Esper Andersen.
(Danish dialogue)
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading