Neely Swanson

“Kieler Street” – Definitely not the street where you live [MOVIE REVIEW]

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Thorbjorn Harr as Jonas in “Kieler Street.” Photo courtesy of MHz Networks.

by Neely Swanson

“Kieler Street,” could be subtitled “Norwegian Desperate Criminals” as a take on the American series about how sinister could look so normal on Wisteria Lane. A creation from the minds of Stig Frode Henriksen, Jesper Sundnes, and Patrik Syversen, who also directed a number of the episodes, “Kieler Street” is in the town of Slusvik, the self-proclaimed safest and least criminal town in Scandinavia. Jonas, one of the newer inhabitants has landed there mysteriously.

Jonas, revealed in flashbacks to be a skilled thief and a criminal much pursued by the police, as well as other more nefarious types, has made an expensive pact with the devil, or a very devilish organization. For a price, a steep one at that, he can be “disappeared” into a new life. Given a new name, a new identity, erasing his old persona along with his education, previous skill set, and all contacts, he is plopped down into Slusvik. His handler is quick to point out that Slusvik is the safest town in Norway. What she fails to point out is that it is also its blandest and occupied by a quirky, disconnected group of people who all seem to have hidden agendas. But that is not his concern. Jonas has escaped the imminent danger of his old life and is now a solid citizen of Slusvik with a new wife and stepdaughter.

But no one is as they seem, not his obsessive, aggressive stepdaughter, and especially not his best friend and next door neighbor Geir. Geir sells insurance and the life choking numbness has made it his mission to escape. He spends his down time, of which there is a lot because nothing ever happens in Slusvik, researching the inhabitants and he has discovered that quite a few of them, including Jonas, have no history prior to their arrival in Slusvik. He has discovered that all of these targeted people, including Jonas, have similarities and must be hiding something major and he aims to cash in. Recognizing the danger he’s in (and this is a minor spoiler alert even if it does occur very early on), Jonas must eliminate Geir, and since he’s been threatening to leave for a long time, his disappearance doesn’t even raise any suspicions. Even his wife isn’t surprised.

But Geir was right about the town. So many have secrets and have much to hide. Jonas must now be more on his toes. The distractions have caused him trouble at work where he is a waiter and quasi-assistant manager at the local diner – not exactly a life’s ambition. His officious boss is constantly criticizing him at the same time dangling the carrot of moving up in his organization. Organization may be a bit of an overstatement as he only owns the one restaurant but has grandiose plans to expand it into an empire.

But as one wave dissipates, others start to form, especially in later episodes with the appearance of William the sociopath who has also put two and two together, but only because he’s one of the several without a previous history. He’s clever, ominous, and a clear and present danger. On top of everything else, Jonas has lost Sophie’s cat which has led to an existential crisis.

The color palette is as dark as the stories, the writing is crisp and intriguing, and the direction moves things along at a fast pace. The acting is uniformly good, filled with actors who are, for the most part unknown to us. Thorbjorn Harr as Jonas is, of course, the standout and lynchpin upon which everything hinges. But he is ably supported by Andrea Braein Hovig as his wife Elin, and especially Ylva Fuglerud as his dangerously wacko step daughter Sophie. Sigurd Myhre as William, has the portrayal of sociopathy down pat and Benjamin Helstad as Adam, the drama teacher, will have you constantly second guessing yourself and him.

I could go on and on but I won’t because you should discover the darkly humorous, dangerous activities of this thriller in 10 episodes yourself. There is much pleasure to be derived from a series where the town inhabitants are up in arms about the damage to the bust of the town founding father, a vicious anti-Semite but have no interest in the girl found murdered in the woods.

In Norwegian with English subtitles.

Premiering October 13 on MHz Choice.

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