By Ethlie Ann Vare
In the opening scene of 2014’s A 2nd Chance — now getting a second chance at a U.S. release — two cops bust down the door of a psychopathic junkie beating the crap out of his girlfriend, while their hungry infant sits in its own filth, bawling. It only gets more depressing from there. And you thought the Danes were such nice people.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister) bears the weight of this heavy melodrama on his muscular shoulders as Andreas, one of the cops, who thinks the child would be better off with better parents. Parents like Andreas and his wife, perhaps. He makes a decision that leads down a dark and twisted path – most of which you will see coming, but some of which you won’t. The thing is, while Coster-Waldau is possibly the handsomest man on the planet, he is not its best actor. He does seem more comfortable in Danish, his mother tongue, but the script goes places he can’t. It’s like listening to Journey’s Steve Perry, forever reaching for a note he can’t quite hit. Entertaining enough, but still….
A Foreign Language Oscar-winner for In a Better World and known to TV audiences for her work on The Night Manager, director Susanne Bier likes to upend people’s preconceptions and show us that stereotypes are not accurate predictions. Trouble is, her stereotypes are so darn stereotypical. The abusive junkie ex-con Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) lacks only a moustache to twirl. Andreas’ partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen from Counterpart) is divorced and gets drunk in – surprise — strip clubs. Andreas’ beautiful wife (Maria Bonnevie) is as emotionally fragile as a blonde can be. Maybe black really was white and white really was black, but real life comes in shades of gray.
Bier works largely in close-ups to emphasize the internal conflicts of the characters. That will serve the movie well as it rolls out on smaller screens. Plus, those are some really gorgeous faces to close on. (That’s supermodel May Andersen as the junkie girlfriend.) Scenes of the Danish countryside are also lovely, but since you’re looking at subtitles throughout — unless you speak Danish — you might miss some of it.
A 2nd Chance will fit well among the other snowy Scandinavian offerings flooding the streaming channels; who knew there were so many murderous Swedes and Norwegians? But it was a treat to see it in its limited release at the Arena Cinelounge, a hidden Hollywood gem. Did you know there was a cozy 50-seat theater in the lobby of the CNN building on Sunset? Wide screen, comfortable chairs, Dolby sound, and 3 to 5 new mostly independent films every week. Check them out at www.arenascreen.com
A 2nd Chance Rock Salt Releasing Directed by Susanne Bier Written by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maria Bonnevie, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lykke May Andersen
Through July 19th at the Arena Cinelounge Available July 23 on iTunes, Amazon and Fandango