Movies that look like one thing and turn out to be another thing are marvelous cinematic creatures, like a middle-aged man wearing Viking furs in the Norwegian woods to feel like a man again. Perhaps for Martin (Rasmus Bjerg, eloquent and fiery at once), it’ll be the first time in his life that he feels like something people find valuable.
One of the most chaotic elements of life is resisting, accepting, and then pushing away from complacency. What am I doing and is this right? Martin’s wife loves him and they have a nice life, but it’s still bottling him up like a shaken soda in a hot warehouse. Thomas Daneskov’s “Wild Men” begins with our unlikely protagonist struggling to find a suitable meal in his new Mother Nature-sponsored surroundings.
Make no mistake. Martin is down for life, but still hasn’t completed school or training for a nomad habitat that requires you to hunt and acquire all of your food. An early interaction in a mini mart informs the audience that Martin doesn’t care for rules, laws, or the natural way of life. He wishes to interrupt it. When a car-crash survivor with mysterious intentions named Musa crosses paths with Martin on his adventure, their lives and expectations out of it are altered for good.
My mood changed after watching this wonderfully wacky and sincere crime caper/comedy hybrid. The minutes fly nearly as smoothly as the dialogue from the dynamite cast, including a terrific Bjorn Sundquist as the eccentric yet endearing sheriff of the small town Martin is running away from. “We have a Viking on the loose” is what Sundquist’s Oyvind tells his staff and the locals. He tells them this with the ease of me informing you of the weather or what the name of a certain street is.
“Wild Men” is wholeheartedly irreverent, at least to the norms of its shared genres. A crime comedy that doesn’t stop to pose for a familiar picture, the movie gives us a brief yet hilarious depiction of Norwegian ancestry life transformed into a theme park. All the while, Musa is fleeing from the scene of an accident with his partners in crime (well played by Marco Ilos and a Peter Storemare-like Tommy Karlsen) hot on his tale and rightfully angry.
The movie never takes itself too seriously, but finds an organic way to hit emotional notes with ease. A subplot involving Oyvind’s wife and his fly-fishing hits out of nowhere late, nailing the existential crisis of relationships.
“It’s difficult to understand how little time we have.”
For Martin, that’s a battle of wills between a good yet dull life or a daring, unconventional off-the-grid suspension from reality. Bjerg plays all shades of this multifaceted Danish creation. A man running to stand still, as U2 once sang. It’s not as if Martin is feeble or useless out there; he’s just way in over his head. Not as deep in trouble as his outlaw companion (played beautifully by Zaki Youssef), who faces deadly consequences on both sides of the gun: Jail or a bullet.
“Wild Men” never steers straight down the road in its third act, which could teach “Bullet Train” a thing or two about cohesion and having a reason to exist. As Sundquist’s badge and Bjerg’s wanderer grapple both out loud with and in action, life leaves us with the ultimate conundrum: is it better to have lived wild and vicariously as originally intended, or just created a safe home and place to rest your head?
The uproarious “Wild Men” tackles that midlife crisis in entertaining and thought-provoking fashion. It’s well worth the $6.99 on Amazon Prime.
Photo Credit: Briarcliff Entertainment.