A version of this review appeared in The Age, March 8, 2012.
Unwittingly or by design, national cinemas can caricature themselves just as people do. If Red Dog attempted to bottle the essence of life Down Under, Morten Tyldum's chilly thriller feels absurdly “Scandinavian”.
Jo Nesbo's original 2008 novel was narrated by a British expatriate named Roger Brown, working in Oslo as a corporate recruiter. In the movie, Roger is played by Aksel Hennie, a born-and-bred Norwegian who looks like a miniature Christopher Walken and will surely turn up as a Bond villain sometime in the next decade.
Every aspect of Roger's life has a sleek, sterile glamour, from his modernist home to his statuesque wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund) who seemingly has no idea that her husband finances her whims by moonlighting as an art thief. In the course of one of his heists, Roger discovers an unsettling secret about Diana, launching him on a series of misadventures that see him literally and figuratively plunged into the muck.
It's more than possible that Roger was originally named for Roger O. Thornhill, the ad-man played by Cary Grant in Hitchcock's freewheeling North By Northwest. Both Rogers are shallow suits forced to reinvent themselves on the run, even if Hennie's character is far less charismatic. Tyldum modifies the Hitchcock recipe by making everything much more gory and unpleasant, though not any more exciting or believable; the plot jigsaw clicks together neatly at the end, but at no point are we given any reason to care.