Movie review: A killer with a good heart in ‘A Somewhat Gentle Man’

As the hangdog title character in “A Somewhat Gentle Man,” Stellan Skarsgard promises a more complex and full-blooded portrait than the film is able to deliver.

The adamantly deadpan story concerns a goodhearted, self-effacing killer — a movie staple of sorts, particularly in the quasi-Coen-esque crime-comedy territory that this Norwegian feature occupies. But like the Coen brothers at their least convincing, the mix of low-grade depression and amped quirkiness never shakes off the feel of self-conscious posturing.

Released from prison after a dozen years, Skarsgard’s Ulrik registers no reaction to his change in circumstance other than mild annoyance at the need to follow a new routine. The ponytailed auto-mechanic-cum-hit-man is a maddeningly passive participant in his own life. He dutifully services the women — landlady, coworker, ex — whose unceremonious offers of sex are thinly veiled demands, and he grunts his consent to a retaliation plan hatched by his small-potatoes gangster boss.

Chirpy music and a hipster-friendly selection of tracks emphasize that director Hans Petter Moland isn’t concerned with hackneyed questions of rehabilitation. But for all its glum affectation, the screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson heads for conventional, redemptive uplift.


When the taciturn Ulrik at last takes a stand, Skarsgard makes you feel the weight lifting, and makes you wish you cared more about this collection of contradictions and bleak jokes.

“A Somewhat Gentle Man.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. At the Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.