Guy Ritchie may have creatively moved on from his Tarantino-inspired debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but international crime cinema has not, as again evidenced by Jackpot. Magnus Martens’s Norwegian caper opens in a police interrogation room where detective Solør (Henrik Mestad) questions Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) about a shooting at a strip club that left eight people dead, and at which Oscar was found underneath a dead heavyset dancer wielding a shotgun. This setup is pure Usual Suspects, with Oscar’s guilt or innocence in constant question, yet in all other respects, Martens’s film is a wannabe-early-Ritchie effort, full of colorful miscreants, seedy milieus, sex and profanity, and quick-cut flashbacks and narrative focus jumps from one nefarious character to another. Those include not only Oscar, but three ex-cons whom he employs at a fake Christmas tree-producing factory, and with whom he wins $1.7 million kroner in a gambling scam. No sooner has the money been won, however, than the bodies start to drop, with the hoods offing each other before finding themselves embroiled in a battle against strip-club owner Lasse (Peter Andersson), who wants to collect on debts owed by Oscar’s cohort and childhood friend Thor (Mads Ousdal).
Jackpot soon comes to prominently involve double-crosses, blood-splattered bodies, and corpses disposed of in a wood chipper, all of which director Martens shoots with two eyes toward glossy titillation. There’s no empathy to these proceedings, nor any point to its amoral perspective on the action except to elicit a few chuckles from bad people behaving badly—and that aim is further sabotaged by the fact that there isn’t a single amusing line or unexpected turn of events delivered throughout. Meanwhile, his cast is a bland bunch whose characters are too featureless to make any sort of zany comic-scary impact, and too cartoonish to register as actual human beings about whose plight we should care. Of course, engagement with such material should come as much from inventive plotting as from well-rounded characterizations, and yet in that respect, Martens’s tale is a cumbersome beast that, for all its circling back on itself and bombshells about certain players’ motivations and true natures, never generates the very sort of zippy fast-and-crude electricity that might make up for the dull familiarity of its twists and turns. Feigning both fatalistic cynicism and happily-ever-after hopefulness in equal measure, it’s merely a grim retread cast in a two-decade-old mold.