Jackpot is the second cinematic adaptation to come from writer Jo Nesbø, and after the success, both critically and artistically, of Headhunters it has a lot to live up to and thankfully, it does not disappoint. From the explosive and darkly comic opening that includes “pussy”, a shotgun and some degree of defenestration, the story races intensely ahead through buckets of blood, and near-slapstick violence to moralise on the sin of greed, and the benefit of being mathematical. At its heart, the story can be read as a modern reworking of The Pardoner’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, giving rise to perhaps the weirdest potential poster-quote, “Jackpot: Tarantino meets Geoffrey Chaucer“.
The premise seems simple though. A group of abrasive ex-convicts, Thor (Mads Ousdal), Treschow (Andreas Cappelen), psychopath Billy (Arthur Berning) and their mild-mannered employer Oscar Svendson (Kyrre Hellum) win the football pools, awarding them over a million kroner, split four ways which is…uh…mmm…a lot. The greed of the criminals sees the group implode and they attempt to diminish their number with a variety of a violent and grisly methods, with quiet Oscar stuck in the middle. Murder however, is only half the battle, as the inexperienced survivors attempt to hide bodies, avert the law and stave off further attacks. With the addition of a little love interest, a touching back story and a mob debt to the mix you’ve got a hotbed of shifting loyalties, motivations and most importantly, perspectives.
Much like the previous Nesbø adaptation, Headhunters, the story is fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable, although it lacks the twists and turns of its predecessor. With the bag of money becoming the central element, Jackpot straddles the line between a crime movie and a con movie. In this light however, the narrative seems a little primitive, fitting as lead detective Solør (Henrik Mestad) constantly equates the suspects to a bunch of apes, and perhaps this is why. A film of this calibre should be about the great reveal at the end, which is meant to celebrate the ingenuity written between the lines and prove it was anything but primitive, but unfortunately the twist is ambiguous, rather than yielding a fully-formed revelation and apart from Oscar, the characters are genuinely unintelligent and unable to believably orchestrate intelligent narrative twists.
The (comparative) lack of substance in the plot is offset by the comedy. I hate to recycle phrases I’ve used in previous reviews, but once again a black Fargo-esque strand of humour runs throughout the film, even more acutely in Jackpot as bodies disappear in to a large industrial chipper… The excellent scripting, and throughly moronic depiction of the characters ensures the film remains completely captivating and enjoyable. The degree of violence and blood may be a surprise to some viewers, but as long as you can digest it with a laugh then you’ll be ok.