The Film: Fuck Up (2012)
The Principles: Oystein Karlsen (Director), Jon Oigarden, Tuva Novotny, Anders Baasmo Christiansen
A low on ladder drug smuggler tries to make a lot of money and entangles his closest friends into a deadly situation. Another well done Norwegian film.
Is It Good: Yes. Fuck Up is a disjointed marriage between lifelong friendships and drug smuggling. We often switch back and forth in time between childhood summers at a cabin where the kids felt invincible to the present where they are struggling to keep themselves alive and well.
The film starts with a voiceover at a cemetery, talking about how some ideas start out with good intentions and sometimes don’t end up with the results they were supposed to get. Very shortly we get to witness the narrator pick up some unknown package and then hit a moose with his car. At this point, the lead character switches and Jack, the child teased for being a “Fuck Up” like his dad, becomes the lead. This is a good thing as his character is much more charismatic and problematic at the same time.
He struggles nightly with balancing his night life with his family responsibilities, a wife who is tired of his games and his lonely daughter. Jack has a past with the sole female from the group of friends while having to almost ignore his unstable and constantly drugged friend.
As with any well done movie where the average guy gets mixed up with a deadly mob, Jack is soon fighting to keep himself alive, keep his family safe and save his friends from the bad guys that show up. The bad guys are brutal, and mean business. The first time Jack runs into them they make the impression that they are not worried about anything but business, and will maim anyone who gets in their way.
There is enough humor in the film, particularly drug induced humor on the parts of Jack and the lovable but large and constantly stoned Rasmussen that it reminded me of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but with less story lines and a meaner streak. The flashbacks almost all have a comedic twist to them, but the present is very direct and even brutal at times. The entire film comes off as a well done violent black comedy that always takes itself serious.
I actually enjoyed the family dynamic and the way it played out much more than I expected I would. The final conversation Jack has with his wife starts off taking a very familiar path, but almost completely unexpected with Jack’s character he takes a 180 on what he was saying and he winds up with the complete opposite resolution I had expected.
The pacing of the film starts off a little slow, building up the characters and leading in with the voice over. About 30 minutes in the film finds a great tempo and doesn’t let go. Establishing the characters first adds to the compassion you feel for the characters and builds a better crescendo. You end up caring for the three central friends more than you would usually care for an ensemble. The director did a nice job of balancing the emotions with the action, making you really feel empathy for Jack, a character that would normally come across as his own worst enemy. Never do we forget he is the “Fuck Up” the movie is named for (some could argue it was the narrator and his crash, but it is Jack who has never done anything right his entire life). Even though he screws every thing up, he appears to have good motivations for doing so and even matures a lot in the short time frame of the film.
The snow covered ground and iced over roadways add additional character to the film when contrasted with the summer flashbacks by the water. This winds up reflecting on how the times have changed for our characters as the summer is bright in color and full of life, where the present day is dim and dreary and they are clinging to anything they can find to stay alive.
Is It Worth A Look: Very much so. I wasn’t able to list a place to buy it from (I saw it from a relative visiting from outside the country), and it is an entry in the 2012 fantastic fest, so it may be a while until you get a chance to see it. The name should stick out though, as there are very few movies brave enough to have a title with the word “Fuck” in it.
It had been awhile since I had watched a movie with both the comedic and thriller elements that the amateur mafia life presents. This is one of my favorite types of films when done correctly, as the black comedy is normally funnier due to the dire circumstances the lead characters are in. So often do they fall short by having too much humor to be taken serious, or overcompensate by having darker overtones than needed and essentially letting you lose feeling for the main characters. Fuck Up balances the tone very well, and ends up being a very enjoyable 96 minutes. Keep an eye out for it and watch it when you get the chance.
Headhunters and Troll Hunter opened my eyes to the Norwegian film industry. Having a Sister-in-law living there and talking about what she has seen doesn’t hurt either. I like what I have seen so far and am going to continue keeping an eye on the releases that they put out.
The Director, Karlsen, also wrote and directed a Norwegian TV show named Dag, which has been purchased by Fox for a US remake. Many of the actors used in Fuck Up came from that show.
Cinematic Soulmates: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Pulp Fiction, Running Scared, Run, Out of Bounds