A Somewhat Gentle Man is a somewhat charming movie. Hans Petter Moland's comedy about a sensitive mobster (Stellan Skarsgård) released from prison after twelve years for murdering a man has funny moments and it has moving moments. It has unexpected bursts of violence and a gentle heart. The film also feels like a retread of an Aki Kaurismäki movie; set in a tiny town in Norway, Ulrik's (Skarsgård) small universe is populated with genial losers who are hoping for better days.
It has been almost five years since the last release of a Kaurismäki (Lights in the Dusk
), so if you are feeling a longing, A Somewhat Gentle Man
is a good choice, filling a void in your cinematic universe. However, the film could just as easily have the opposite effect and leave you wanting the real thing.
Skarsgard's Ulrick sports a receding hairline and a long ponytail. When the film opens, he is reluctant to leave jail. The room that he lands in seems worse than a prison cell, with an unfortunate female landlord who provides him with meals and then expects sexual services. These scenes, which are meant to be funny, are in fact painful. A much subdued Ulrik finds a job, a love interest, a son with whom he hopes to reunite. And, yes, as we have come to expect from films about mobsters who want to reform, the mob wants to pull them back in. There is an old boss, urging a gun back into Ulrik's unwelcome hands. What Ulrik does with this gun, however, that's a surprise.
Skarsgard is a likable actor. Though I could not stop myself from wishing he would get a hair cut, he makes the experience of watching A Somewhat Gentle Man pleasant enough. I wish, however, that we could have seen much less of his landlord.
A Somewhat Gentle Man (2011)
Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, Bjorn Floberg, Bjorn Sundquist, Aksel Hennie, Gard B. Eidsvold
Directed by: Hans Petter Moland
Produced by: Erik Poppe, Finn Gjerdrum, Stein Kvae
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min
Release Date: January 14th, 2011 (limited)
Distributors: Strand Releasing