Based on a novel by bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell, “Before the Frost” is a competent but unexciting police thriller centered on a father-and-daughter cop team investigating a series of slayings in a remote town. First in a series of 13 features — most slated as direct-to-DVD — pic looks to be a moderate success on home turf, given Mankell’s popularity, with potential in territories where writer’s name is known.
In the southern Swedish town of Ystad, Inspector Kurt Wallander (Krister Henriksson) is assigned to find a missing woman. At the same time, his daughter, Linda (Johanna Sallstrom), who recently graduated as a cop, arrives in town. The two have a strained relationship, so Linda stays with an old friend, Anna (Ellen Mattsson).
When Linda discovers the brutally murdered body of the missing woman, Wallander is furious, as he’d rather see Linda work on traffic surveillance than chase killers.
Anna disappears next, and Linda finds a videotape about the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, among Anna’s belongings. When a female abortionist is kidnapped and later found hanged in a church, all the clues point to an extreme religious cult being behind the murders. The cops realize they have little time to prevent an act of religious terror that will kill hundreds of innocent people.
As a thriller, pic is nothing special, with few (and short) action sequences and no real suspense. Sharp-eyed viewers may note the game is virtually given away during the opening titles.
Eight of Mankell’s 10 novels in the original Wallander series have been filmed so far, all starring Rolf Lassgard. The ninth, “One Step Behind,” also with Lassgard, is skedded to be released in June, and the thesp is in talks to star in a pic version of the 10th, “Firewall.”
“Before the Frost,” starring Henriksson, was written after the original series. Compared with Lassgard, Henriksson, though fine at a technical level, lacks the authority and screen presence to make viewers believe that the character is a good cop, despite his personal problems.
Sallstrom, who retired from the bigscreen to have a child a couple of years ago, makes a convincing return as the tough but insecure Linda. Future films in the series will hopefully develop both her character and her relationship with her father in even more depth.
Although it’s unlikely there will be any more novels about the father-and-daughter cop team, Mankell has written 12 draft storylines, which are currently being turned into scripts by a group of young writers, for rapid filming by various directors. Ten are planned as straight-to-DVD and two as theatrical releases.