Swedish crime novelists have extended their popularity through a range of high-profile film and television adaptations. Acclaimed writer Henning Mankell is the latest Scandinavian storyteller to hit U.S. theatrical shores with "Wallander: The Revenge," directed by Charlotte Brandstrom and starring Krister Henriksson as Inspector Kurt Wallander and Lena Endre as Katarina Ahlsell.
Stieg Larsson ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Jo Nesbo ("Headhunters," Harry Hole novels) may have cultivated more press in the United States, but that should in no way undermine Mankell's immensely popular work. The "Wallander" novels have sold over 20 million books worldwide. Plus, the tales have been adapted into various films and television series in a number of countries.
To date, there are nine Swedish Wallander films and five television series: two for Swedish television (airing 2005-2010), and now three for Britain's BBC starring Kenneth Branagh (broadcast in America on PBS).
With the theatrical release of "Wallander: The Revenge," audiences get the chance to view the feature-length first episode of the successful second season of the Swedish television series on the big screen. The special showing hit New York last week, and will screen in Los Angeles June 8.
Interestingly, three select episodes of the first season and this episode, "The Revenge," from the second season were initially released theatrically in Sweden -- an uncommon practice for television premieres in the United States.
"Wallander: The Revenge" opens on a mysterious figure running down train tracks at night and then switches to a much more jovial scene of a man's birthday party, celebrated with childish party hats and prankish gifts. It's the birthday of Inspector Chief Kurt Wallander (Henriksson), the recently proud owner of a house by the sea. His friends and colleagues celebrate with drinks and gifts of a toolbox, which he'll need for his new home. But the joviality is cut short when the electricity goes out, caused by a terrorist explosion at the power plant in the sleepy town of Ystad, Sweden.
Wallander and his colleagues are called out to the scene of the crime, and it's not long before Wallander is investigating this and other acts of terrorism as well as a series of murders. Could they all be somehow connected?
That's for Wallander to solve. Of course, it's not easy when the District Attorney Katarina Ahlsell (Endre) sets up shop in the division, followed next by federal agents and the National Guard. Wallander is inundated with unwelcome theories and protocol.
What makes Henriksson's Wallander a unique and fascinating character is that he's a little less isolated and intense than previous incarnations. In the film's production notes, producer Malte Forssell comments that "in close collaboration with Krister, we chose to bring [Wallander's] lighter side to the forefront … we tried to make him more engaged in his job and a little less lonely in relation to his colleagues at the police station in little Ystad."
Likewise, author Mankell had approval of who played Wallander. He also wanted Krister Henriksson, proclaiming in the film's notes that when the actor said yes, he started to work on new stories apart from the novels: "It was an exciting task for me …. I would write in the more visual language of film and TV."
"Wallander: The Revenge" is a great kick-off to Swedish television's acclaimed detective series. If you live outside of New York or Los Angeles, "Wallander: The Revenge," as well as the other 12 films or episodes, are currently available through On Demand, iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu.
"Wallander: The Revenge" is 90 minutes and Not Rated.
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