Johan Falk Trilogy (MHZ Networks Corp., NR)

Johan-Falk 75The series seems like a good fit for American audiences — plenty of action, improbable plots, lots of beautiful blondes, and a charmingly relaxed attitude toward sex.

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In my experience, European detective shows tend to emphasis logic and reason more than car chases and bloodshed, but the Swedish film series Johan Falk, starring Jakob Eklund as a bad-boy Gothenburg cop, is the exception to this rule. Falk is a sort of Swedish Dirty Harry who’s constantly in trouble because he doesn’t play by the rules, but subscribes to a higher standard of justice in which the law of the land may be disregarded if necessary to pursue the cause of righteousness. The series seems like a good fit for American audiences — plenty of action, improbable plots, lots of beautiful blondes, and a charmingly relaxed attitude toward sex.

The first film, Zero Tolerance (1999), opens on Christmas Eve. Out to pick up dinner at Burger King after a quickie with attractive colleague Anja Månsdottir (Jaqueline Ramel), Falk witnesses a shakedown that becomes a murder (Santa Claus gets shot, so maybe this is not one for the kids) tied to a criminal organization run by Leo Gaut (Peter Andersson). Three civilians saw enough to testify against the killer, but after a visit from Gaut’s thugs, they’re all too frightened to testify. Falk, of course, is determined to see justice prevail — which requires the witnesses to testify — and he’s more than willing to break the law in the process, with the result that soon he is a wanted man. One of the witnesses, Helén Andersson (Marie Richardson), becomes Falk’s lover and a character in the later films.

Executive Protection (2001) takes on the issue of the protection racket, European style. One of Falk’s friends (Samuel Fröler), a factory manager in Estonia, finds himself being shaken down by local gangsters, and hires Nikolaus Lehmann (Christoph M. Ohrt) to take care of them. Lehmann does — by killing them — and refuses to disappear when Sven tells him his services are no longer required. Meanwhile, Falk has been dying of boredom since being relegated to a desk job, so he becomes involved in Sven’s case. Matters quickly escalate, and soon Sven’s wife Jeanette (Lia Boysen) is taken hostage, then released with a time bomb around her neck, providing the perfect “time is running out” pressure for Falk to solve the case.

In The Third Wave (2003), Falk has resigned his position with the Gothenberg police. But there’s always more crime to fight, and his old boss Sellberg (Lennart Hjulström), who has recently become head of the organized crime task force for Europol, tries to recruit him to the cause. Meanwhile, the business executive Rebecca (Irina Björklund) discovers that her boyfriend Kane (Ben Pullen) is a money launderer and decides to spill the beans to Europol, a decision that of course puts her life in jeopardy and requires Falk to get on the case. It’s perhaps the least believable plot of the three films in this set, but it’s still quite enjoyable to watch, in a popcorn-movie sort of way.

Each of the Falk films is just under two hours, so you get a total of 328 minutes on three DVDs. Each film can be watched alone, but the characters’ backstories are gradually built up over time, so ideally you should watch them in sequence. There are no extras except for trailers from other MHZ-distributed films, but the films look and sound great, so this set is a great introduction to a series that, if not exactly revolutionary, is certainly a lot of fun. | Sarah Boslaugh

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