Movie Review: ‘IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE’ – a slickly crafted crime-comedy


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

Director: Hans Petter Moland
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre HagenJakob OftebroBirgitte Hjort SørensenPeter Andersson and Kristofer Hivju

The great thing about watching movies from another country is that you embrace an entirely different perspective from what is normal. There is a sense of something with soul, something less dependent on commerce to achieve the purpose of art. Storytelling is a lot less optimistic for the most part as well because there is a need to explore the mentality of humankind; sometimes this exploration leads to uncomfortable places for the viewer.

However, it makes an originality come to be. Moving through the pathos of certain characters can lead to darker tones but also reacts to the environment to cause moments that elicit something humorous. We know that something terrible has happened, and yet we find ourselves laughing to ourselves, then eventually louder as the audacity washes over us. These instances are something rare that are meant to cause a reaction of thought, taking the viewer out of their element to create something memorable, for better or worse.

All of this is to say that when you watch IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, a tale of paternal revenge against mobsters, be prepared to unexpectedly laugh… a lot.

Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) runs a successful snow removal company in a rural Norwegian town. As he is accepting his award for Citizen of the Year, his son has died. The police notify Nils and his wife that their son overdosed and was found on a bench at the airport. Heartbroken, their marriage disintegrates, and our main character is at an emotional crossroads before finding out that it was a murder made to look like an overdose.

After further information develops, Nils decides to take matters into his own hands, killing those that were at fault; these murderers just so happen to be mobsters, henchmen of a drug business run by The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen). But while the audience knows that Nils is behind the killings, The Count gets an inclination that it might be the Serbian mob, headlined by Papa (Bruno Ganz), and decides to send them a message. By dumb luck, Nils has ignited a turf war, and all three patriarchs want satisfaction.

Stellan Skarsgård in IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Stellan Skarsgård in IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland, the movie starts in an empathetic mood as you feel for Nils’ grieving. The movie never changes the fact that it is a tale of revenge, but incorporates the fact that each of these characters have distinguishing traits; these characters’ depth and personality allows for the humor to creep in while still maintaining reality.

For example, when Nils and his wife have to go identify their son’s body, they are standing in shock from this horrific event. However, the coroner has to raise the body to meet them, and the lack of proper equipment causes this to take an excruciatingly long time, making the scene incredibly awkward. The old adage of tragedy, plus timing, equals comedy.

The presentation of the film makes for something stylish as well. While IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE does have gory elements to it, the impacted violence (i.e., showing someone getting a shotgun round to the stomach) happens off screen. The sound of the shot and the sight of blood are enough to give credence to the violence, but because Nils doesn’t really consider himself a murderer, he himself cannot see that he is committing a murder. Furthermore, each time someone dies, a title card appears as a small obit to the victim, containing name, date, and whatever religious symbol they were. It’s a slight touch, but one that gives the film originality.

Also, it goes without saying that Skarsgård and Hagen give everything they’ve got to portray this dichotomous relationship, where humble, quiet Nils is on a vengeful collision course with the brash, manic, audacious Count. Their acting has to be succinct to these traits as Nils’ amateurism and The Count’s over-the-top lashing out help lay the groundwork for the film’s dark humor.

It’s not a perfect movie as it makes way for a couple of plot holes, but IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE is something of a rare breed: an action movie that stays grounded but lets in the surrealism all around it. The manner at which it blends various moods is quite impressive and makes for one of the best surprises of the year.

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE open theatrically in LA, NY and select cities. Also available on Demand, on iTunes and Amazon Video on Friday, August 26.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.