There may be no more perfect setting for a revenge story than in terrain blanketed with snow. The austere and unforgiving conditions of the frigid tundra not only mirror the icy hearts of the treacherous, but also throw a brutal natural obstacle in the path to vengeance. To add to the intrigue, snow makes it both far easier to stash away a suitcase of money (see: Fargo) or even to temporarily conceal a body and, conversely, more difficult to cover one’s tracks. Fortunately for our aggrieved In Order of Disappearance protagonist, Nils (Stellan Skarsgård), he makes his living driving a snowplow.

In fact, Nils has just won a major citizenship award for his loyal work, but any thought of celebration is quelled by the tragic news that the body of his adult son has been found pumped full of heroin at the train station. That bombshell pretty much ends his marriage, especially when he staunchly clings to the belief that his kid was no addict. When Nils learns from his son’s desperate friend (and the guy responsible for the whole ordeal) that, in fact, the young man was indeed blameless and was wrongfully murdered by a local crime syndicate, Nils goes on a Liam Neeson/Charles Bronson-esque vigilante killing spree.

Nils starts with the goons and works his way up the chain of command. At the top sits a somewhat preposterous villain referred to as “The Count” (Pål Sverre Hagen), whose popped-collar mystique is undermined by the fact that, when not helming a crime syndicate, he’s squabbling with his soon-to-be ex-wife about school schedules, the pro and cons of their son’s sugar cereal and other mundane aspects of domesticity. Director Hans Petter Moland injects the slightest dose of levity into these situations, making the darkly comedic elements not something you will even chuckle to, but rather quirks that lighten what is otherwise a salvo of revenge murders.

In order to make his way ever closer to the top banana, Nils must rely on a great deal of luck, but he is also quite resourceful. Each subsequent body—after the film pauses to flash an in memoriam title card featuring a crucifix and the fallen criminal’s name—is wrapped in chicken wire and dumped over a raging waterfall. Nils explains that the chicken wire is to allow room for fish to nibble away at the rotting flesh, while ensuring the bodies can’t swell up and float. Eventually, a Serbian crime family (their kingpin played by Bruno Ganz) gets thrown into the mix and as the film churns towards a climax, we actually get a vengeance triangle at one point as three murderous fathers seek retribution for acts committed against their sons.

Moland showcases the stark Norwegian winter for both its beauty and its brutality. The images and sounds of Nils spraying snow into the air with his plow are nearly as mesmerizing as the white, mountainous terrain itself. And a man with a vendetta who also steers a hulking machine can be all kinds of menacing. In Order of Disappearance may not offer outright laughs, but it allows light enough moments to make this more than just a blood-soaked action thriller. And while it may not entirely transcend its formula, it’s a vivid revenge fantasy that won’t be easily forgotten.

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One Comment

  1. David

    January 27, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    It’s funny you mentioned Liam Neeson because he actually end up playing Stellan Skarsgård‘s role in the subsequent remake, Cold Pursuit! Quite a foresight!!


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