A cop thriller that gets off to a rousing start but can’t sustain its originality or sufficient motivation for the protag, “URO” keeps interest high for the first hour but then gets undermined by its unrelentingly flat palette. Gritty look at a headstrong undercover agent in the Oslo narc scene would be less of a disappointment if helmer Stefan Faldbakken hadn’t made the beginning half such an enjoyable ride. Talent, however, signals greater possibilities with a sophomore effort. Skedded for local August release, pic should do fine in Scandi territories but offshore will be limited to Nordic showcases.
URO is the acronym for the Norwegian narcotics unit, where Hans Petter, known as HP (Nicolai Cleve Broch), is a new recruit. HP needs firm reining in to counter his tendency to charge ahead without sufficient back-up, and boss Makker (Ingar Helge Gimle) tries to control him but there’s something in HP’s past that keeps the moody young man’s eyes and feet set recklessly forward.
An unexpected encounter with Mette (Ane Dahl Torp), an old school friend who runs a club that’s under surveillance, offers HP an opportunity for a perfect cover. HP is able to infiltrate a drug-running outfit through Mette’s b.f. Marco (Ahmed Zeyan), a foot soldier for a drug ring. Mette’s sadistic dad Frank (Bjorn Floberg) turns out to be the real capo of the operation, however HP discovers Frank and his own good-for-nothing father were associates.
With personal entanglements creating conflicts he’s unwilling to address, HP decides to fly solo and orchestrates a sting, without clueing in his superiors, that quickly spins out of control.
Despite a nice thrust at the beginning, carried along by a zippy chase sequence, HP’s increasingly complicated motivations don’t signal an accompanying push to the narrative. Hints at HP’s previous life as a bad boy and “scumbag” are never explored, and when they are finally revealed they prove less than earth shattering.
Unfortunately, helmer Faldbakken tries to tie everything up too neatly by pic’s end, which comes off overly optimistic and artificial.
Star Broch is no stranger to police flicks, having co-starred in the similarly titled “Uno,” also lensed by d.p. John Andreas Andersen. His intense, controlled performance nicely captures the haunted quality of a man racing forward to prevent himself from metaphorically looking behind.
Torp, recently named one of Europe’s “Shooting Stars,” gives a complexity to her role as the drug-dependent Mette that continues to build when others remain undeveloped.
Hand-held camera work appropriately captures the tensions and dangers of the duplicitous underworld, though biggest problem is the over filtering, washing out color tonalities to an almost constant blandness. In first half, a brief contrast with brighter outdoor colors could have been used for greater, more textured juxtapositions throughout.