Northwest – Film Review

Gritty Scandi-noir takes to Copenhagen's mean streets

The Scandinavian crime wave continues to invade our screens… Taking its title from an impoverished neighbourhood in Copenhagen Michael Noer’s film is a dark rites of passage tale following two teenaged brothers on the Danish capital’s mean streets.

Casper and Andy (played by real life siblings Gustav and Oscar Dyekjaer Giese – cast via Facebook) are cat burglars who steal to order for an Arab gang lead by Jamal. But when Casper meets pimp and drug dealer Bjorn (played by real-life ex-con Roland Moller) he accepts a dangerous chance to make money delivering drugs and girls for his new underworld mentor and surrogate father. This pitts him against Jamal and the seeds are sewn for the ensuing drama.

A former documentary filmmaker Noer’s style is brutally naturalistic. His first feature film, 2010’s R, was shot in a working prison with real inmates and guards. Following in the stylistic footsteps of the early work of Lars Von Trier (the Nymphomaniac director was part of a movement in filmmaking called Dogme 95 that used real locations as sets) Noer shoots in and around the culturally diverse Northwest estate using locals as extras and the streets as his sound stage.

Believably gritty but with a predictable plot arc, the film owes a debt to the early work of Noer’s fellow Dane, Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. Indeed, his 1996 film Pusher followed a chaotic day in the life of a drug dealer spiralling out of control.

Noer says “being in a gang is like being in a family” and praises the “kinetic synergy” of the young brothers and promised the boys he would “make a film that was honest on behalf of the way they live their life.” It’s a credit to the many non-actors employed by Noer that this Scandi-noir bubbles with a palpable tension always on the knife-edge of violence.

Northwest is in cinemas now

Dan Brightmore