Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Uno (2004)

UnoAksel Hennie is a recognizable face in Norwegian cinema. Perhaps his most recognizable role stateside is as Roger in Headhunters based on the eponymous novel by Jo Nesbø. Uno is Hennie’s directorial debut; he also wrote the screenplay.

Twenty-something David (Hennie) lives in a cramped apartment with his distant mother, terminally ill father and younger brother Kjetil (Espen Juul Kristiansen) who has Down’s Syndrome. David actually sleeps in the apartment’s storage space, ceding the shared bedroom to his brother.

David spends his days working at a gym with his best friend Morten (Nicolai Cleve Broch). Gym owner Jarle (Bjørn Floberg) would have his hands full with his inept thug of a son Lars (Martin Skaug) were it not for Aksel’s constant interceding to get Lars out of jams. Lars sells steriods and brings guns to the gym while holding on to his dream of becoming a cop (social commentary?). Jarle disapproves of Lars criminal missteps, not in the criminal activities themselves. Lars’s floundering illegal activities thrust David into the crosshairs of real gangsters when Lars backs out of a shady steroids deal with Khuram (Ahmed Zeyan), a deal David helped Lars secure by assuring Khuram that Lars was good for an outstanding 40,000 worth of drugs. When Lars can’t meet the deal, David is on the hook. This follows a steroids bust at the gym when David is faced with a choice that will change his life.

Uno delves into friendship dynamics and betrayal. It’s a character-driven drama and while David is no longer an adolescent, Uno plays like a coming-of-age meets loss-of-innocence meets welcome-to-the-world movie. Hennie gives us clues. The ending has problems but overall, the movie works. There’s even a subplot involving a dog but that doesn’t end well, especially if you are a dog lover.

If you like Uno and want more of Hennie and Broch, check out Buddy, another Norwegian offering starring Broch and Hennie. It’s a feel-good movie—very different from Uno.

Writer/Co-director: Aksel Hennie

Country: Norway

Genre: Drama

Run time: 100 minutes

Scale: 3

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