Who's in It:
Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro, Paprika Steen, Ali Kazim
The Basics: It's easy to make an unrepentant Danish neo-Nazi see the error of his ways. All you have to do is sentence him to community service at a wacky little rural church run by a comically delusional and upbeat pastor and make it the bad skinhead's job to tend to the parish apple tree. Then he'll bake a pie of multicultural togetherness as the church bell's loud clang shakes the portrait of Hitler from his bedroom wall. Oops! God is the one knocking down that picture! Like a mischievous scamp!
What's the Deal? Welcome to the Book of Job. How do I know that this movie is like that Bible chapter's story about a long-suffering man's test of faith? Because there's a Bible that co-stars in this movie, and every time it falls off its resting place onto the floor, it flips open to the Book of Job. Then the camera makes sure you see it and go, "Oh, wow, the Book of Job! I get it now!" It's great when a movie does all the work for you.
I Have a Short List of Grievances:
1. See, at one point, the tree gets attacked by birds and maggots, symbolizing the struggle of the faithful and decent against the outside force of hate. And symbols that aren't part of an obtuse and weird movie by Matthew Barney starring a glob of Vaseline and Björk turning into a whale can bite me.
2. Kooky, laugh-at-them-not-with-them characters like the fat, sweaty, slovenly, always-drunk sex addict and the Muslim convenience-store robber and the frail, emotionally wrecked, knocked-up woman who gets convinced not to have an abortion and the tell-it-like-it-is doctor who says things like, "You won't live past today" to his patients. These are not characters they're the result of some stupid build-a-loon, independent-film-character construction tool.
3. "Black comedy" needs to find humor in the blackness instead of see-sawing back and forth between brutality and simpering adorability.
The One Thing About This Movie That Isn't Annoyingly Snuggle-Bunnies: OK, it's actually two things. The performances by Thomsen and Mikkelsen (who seems to be turning into Denmark's breakout star in films that get released over here because he was also the star of After the Wedding and appeared as the guy who weeps blood in Casino Royale) as the Nazi and Minister, respectively, are deadpan enough to keep you from walking out.
Who Should, Instead, Be in Charge of Directing Black Comedies About Spiritual Warfare: Lars von Trier, Ingmar Bergman, the ghost of Flannery O' Connor or Andrei Tarkovsky