Stars: Laura Bach, Jakob Cedergren, Simon Kvamm, Lars Mikkelsen, Lars Ranthe, Lærke Winther and Frederik Meldal Nørgaard.
Writers: Morten Dragsted and Siv Rajendram Eliassen.
Director: Birger Larsen

REVELATIONS FILM FESTIVAL Screenings – Sun July 8, 3.30pm; Sun July 14, 2.30pm.

Rating: 3.5/5

A polished, workmanlike police procedural that pulls off familiar tropes with clarity and tense momentum, Those Who Kill: Shadows of the Past is enlivened by its contemporary Copenhagen setting, above-par genre acting and frank gore.

The occasional narrative diversion from the well-trodden path most often taken by serial killer thrillers is enough to give this big-screen airing of one of Denmark’s most popular small-screen properties a focus that mostly compels to the inevitable showdown, which is executed with aplomb.

After a horribly riveting opening sequence aboard a bus, the film settles into a steady stream of clichés that are played very broadly; one gets the feeling that the entire first act is an overplayed set-up that the director Birger Larsen, a veteran of the TV series, is more than eager to subvert.

Thomas (Jakob Cedergren) is a divisional psychiatrist easing through his last couple of days with the force before a new job in the safer world of psychology academia. It is a pay upgrade that ensures his beautiful wife Mia (Lærke Winther) and son Johan (Benjamin Brüel von Klitzing) can buy that dream house (see what I mean about clichés….?). His partner is Katrine (the striking and strong Laura Bach), a hardbitten cop despite her young age who can’t believe her partner would leave ‘the life’.

After some perfunctory forensic work - the speedy, simple kind often associated with frivolous hour-long ‘CSI’-type shows - it emerges that the bus massacre was the work of Kristian Almen (a truly menacing Simon Kvamm), an ex-patient of Thomas’ not long out of incarceration. The film follows a well-worn path up to this point but soon discrepancies appear in the plotting that spin the film in unexpected directions. And not a moment too soon, frankly; an hour in and my attention was wavering, but the third act is a corker.

Filled with the kind of cop-shop banter and action brio most often associated with mid-range Hollywood programmers, Those Who Kill: Shadows of the Past finds a freshness that comes from its international cast and continental flavours, rather than anything aesthetically or structurally ground-breaking. Perhaps best recalling David Fincher’s Se7en or, more recently, Jonas Åkerlund’s Dennis Quaid starrer Horseman in its willingness to wallow in some supremely visceral physical horror undercut with themes of regret and painful redemption, Larsen’s film doesn’t reach high enough to carry any importance but nor does it fall short of its ambitions to be a solidly dark-natured mystery-thriller.

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