With its cheeky satire of a helmer clearly modeled on Lars von Trier, “Clash of Egos” is a witty take on moviedom and the clash between films that are perceived as either art or trash. Though muddled in the final reels, comedy about an aggrieved moviegoer who takes out his anger on a pretentious director still has enough laughs and satire to entertain throughout. A box office success in Denmark late last summer, this could equally score in a niche way with offshore auds in the hands of a savvy distrib. Story also has remake potential.
Tonny (Ulrich Thomsen) has a severe anger problem, having just spent time in jail for knocking a man unconscious. His wife, Tanja (Ellen Hillingso), has divorced him, and his lawyer has to persuade her to let him see his children (Frederikke Thomassen and Christian Heldbo Wienberg) a few hours every month.
On their first outing, Tonny takes his kids to see the new “Harry Potter” film. When they can’t get any tickets, they instead watch a pretentious Danish film, “The Murderer,” where they’re the only ones in the cinema. In the foyer afterward, Tonny gets angry and smashes a window. He manages to avoid prison time and decides to seek out the film’s director to get back the money they spent on tickets, popcorn and soft drinks.
Helmer is Claus Volter (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), who says things like, “I make films for myself, not for the audience.” When he receives a devastating review in the New York Times, he comments, “I don’t consider it a serious paper; after all, it’s American.”
Tonny visits Volter on the set of his new film, “The Artist,” where he’s mistaken for an extra and has a serious accident. Told that he can now sue Volter for millions, Tonny instead demands to become the pic’s co-scripter and co-director. Furious, Volter has to agree.
With the aid of his friend (and possible love interest) Klara (Line Kruse), Tonny pens a new script, packed with guns, ninjas and shootouts, that the actors love. Title is “Explosive Bomb,” the original Danish title of “Clash of Egos.”
Like Danish arthouse fave Von Trier, Volter gets good reviews in local papers but often poor box office, and drives around the film set in a golf cart. Portrait is wicked but not mean-spirited, especially as played by Kaas, who has also acted in films by Von Trier (“The Idiots”).
As Tonny, Thomsen is almost unrecognizable with a moustache, silly beard and golden tooth. As in “Adam’s Apples” (directed by “Egos” scripter Anders Thomas Jensen), he shows the kind of rage that can erupt from nowhere, and plays Tonny as endlessly shuttlecocking between anger and pure sentimentality.
A longtime collaborator — mainly as an actor — with writer Anders Thomas Jensen, helmer Tomas Villum Jensen (unrelated) previously directed films aimed at kids. But in “Egos,” he proves himself a very competent helmer of more adult material, getting the most out of the comic situations thanks to his strong cast. Only in the final 15-20 minutes does the pic lose some of its edge.