December 12th 2014 03:47
Thereís not a lot to distinguish Mikkel Norgaardís adaptation of yet another bestselling foreign language mystery novel. The wave of Nordic and Scandinavian crime has well and truly crested, leaving us shaking our heads as to how to sort the wheat from the chaff. Though it's certainly not without merit, The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) is conventional in nearly every sense. The prologue establishes the rash, headstrong nature of lead character Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) Ė naturally a character flaw that will see him at odds with superiors. Returning from a gunshot-enforced layoff he finds himself booted down to the lowest rung of the departmentís ladder, retrieving cold cases long since buried in basement files. Carl, we soon discover, is not one for contorting his mouth into the upturned contour of a smile, for example. Heís not a happy camper and shows little faith in his designated partner, Assad (Fares Fares), who seems to have been trawling these lower reaches for quite some time.
Bowing down to duty, Carl takes interest in a case of apparent suicide by a stable young woman, Merete (Sonja Richter) on a cruise ship when in the company of her mentally handicapped brother. Ruled a suicide officially, Carl smells a rat and decides to dig deeper. Through means of instinctive deductive reasoning he comes to believe in foul play and throws caution to the wind in his search for answers. The competent Assad isnít entirely convinced, but bemused Ė and presumably amused by the novelty Ė of his new partnerís intense desperation to unlock a thought-to-be solved mystery, he plays along.
In a parallel plotline we discover, of course, that Carlís instincts are not without foundation. An individual with a grudge has gone to elaborate lengths to exact a torturous, elongated revenge. Though the race-against-the-clock predictability of Nikolaj Arcelís screenplay means the narrative arc is hamstrung by its orthodoxy, thereís still a mildly gripping curiosity that has us holding out hope for a cleverly wrought, unforeseeable twist. The finale, when reached, proves to be derivative and conservative yet the always riveting Kaas is certainly enough to sustain interest. His physical presence - utilised by far better directors than Norgaard, including Lars Von Trier and Susanne Bier Ė comes to the fore and his combination with the laidback Fares shows just enough promise to have us believing that the inevitable string of films to follow based on more of Jussi Adler-Olsenís crime novels have a chance to deliver creditably in what is a stacked, highly competitive genre.
The Keeper of Lost Causes is now out on DVD through Madman.