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  Absent One, The Us Vs Them
Year: 2014
Director: Mikkel Nørgaard
Stars: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Pilou Asbæk, David Dencik, Danica Curcic, Sarah-Sofie Boussina, Johanne Louise Schmidt, Marco Ilsø, Beate Bille, Peter Christoffersen, Søren Pilmark, Michael Brostrup, Morten Kirskskov, Philip Stilling
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) won some acclaim for his work as a detective in the Q section of the police, which is basically him and his partner Assad (Fares Fares) who investigate cold cases, but their biggest success was a few months ago now and since then their star has fallen somewhat, with the judgement of the force that they were pretty much spent after solving one of the cases they had reopened. But because their superior doesn't want to lose face, he has assigned them a new secretary, Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt) which he hopes will encourage them to fresh heights, or at least find a new lead. Everyone else is sceptical, but at an event held at the offices a man approaches Carl in a state of agitation...

Carl, being a grumpy sort, tells him not so politely and very plainly that he does not have time to look into what he wants him to right now, but he will get around to it eventually, which comes back to haunt him almost immediately as the next day the old geezer, who turns out to have been an ex-detective himself, commits suicide. There's nothing like that to get the attention of the cops, and Carl, who is not made of stone despite appearances to the contrary, feels very guilty and sets about the case the deceased wanted reopened, though it seems to have been put to bed decisively about twenty years ago. Thus begins another in the Department Q series, a sequel to The Keeper of Lost Causes.

With the same cast of cops returning, and the same director, Mikkel Nørgaard, who declined to make the third in the series so he could go back to his Klown franchise of cult comedy. But he was on board here, adapting one of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s hit crime novels that had seen him mentioned as the successor to Steig Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Certainly there were more similarities between that late writer's efforts and The Absent One than there had been with The Keeper, as while the first instalment had been a Thomas Harris style tale of a psychopathic villain, this one saw a more conspiratorial bent to proceedings as Carl and Assad become embroiled with the upper classes.

Not going as far as Larsson did with his plot, it had to be said, but still with that suspicion of the powers that be who thought they could get away with anything they wanted because they were rich and connected, and had powerful positions in society. As before, we saw flashbacks to the beginnings of the scandal where a teenage boy at an exclusive private school had been convicted of murdering two fellow pupils while under the influence of drink and drugs. This state of apparently not being responsible for his actions had him released from prison after three years, but the dead detective believed this boy was the fall guy for an unlovely coterie of students who were exercising their future rights to ride roughshod over their supposed inferiors.

This time around things were if anything even more grim in that Scandinavian crime manner, with rapes, murders, frame ups of the innocent and an overall sense of corruption infiltrating the upper echelons of Danish society. This was evidently what the Danes wanted to hear as The Absent One, or Fasandræberne as it was originally called, proved to be the biggest success for a homegrown film at the Danish box office ever, probably testament to the popularity of the books but that was not to denigrate the slickness of the production, it was a very well made film. The only issue with that was that something so relentlessly downbeat was rather difficult to warm to, and Carl was intentionally a chilly figure who has his conscience raised by Kimmie (Danica Curic, and Sarah-Sofie Boussina in the flashbacks), a homeless woman who used to attend the school, but whose bad behaviour finally caught up with her when she had a moment of self-realisation. She was probably the most interesting character, though she received rather short shrift from the plot eventually, but Scandinavian crime addicts would have little to complain about here.

[The Absent One is released in UK cinemas on 8 April, with a Discover Tuesdays at Picturehouse Cinemas on 12 April.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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