Tribeca 2021 Review: A Break from Urban Life Messes Up a Clean Getaway in the Darkly Funny “Wild Men”

You only see one couple actually physically together in “Wild Men” and they’re arguing in a car, with a wife unhappy that her husband doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to her, and it would seem she has a point when he can’t be bothered to respond. Showing a bit of altruism, a word that she claims he has no conception of, he pulls over to show a bit of kindness to a pair of men on the road who would seemingly be in need of a lift paying no mind to their blood-soaked clothes. Like so much of Thomas Daneskov’s second feature, the more absurd the scenario becomes, the truer it feels as discontent can often make one put their blinders on, and no one in the Danish dark comedy would call themselves happy, though their misery can’t help but be amusing for audiences.

The tears start mere seconds after “Wild Men” begins, opening in the wilderness where in spite of gorgeous mountains and fresh air, Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) is feeling suffocated, unable to forage for himself with a bow and arrow. Dressed in viking regalia, a candy bar wrapper gives away that he is living in the modern era, but he lusts after less complicated times — at least in his own life, revealed to have run away from his wife (Sofie Grabol) and two young daughters after feeling overwhelmed. It gives him something in common with Musa (Zaki Youssef), a drug smuggler who could have reasonably expected to be on the run from the cops when running hash from Denmark to Norway, but couldn’t have anticipated a need to get away from his partners in crime until a freak car accident in which he thinks the other two are dead sees him leaving the scene with their precious cargo. While both men try to get out of the woods figuratively, staying in them literally holds considerable appeal.

Without a new Hans Petter Moland/Stellan Skarsgaard joint on the horizon, Daneskov generously keeps a door ajar to the idiosyncratic and uniquely Scandinavian world of crime, where local law enforcement, embodied by a veteran cop who would’ve retired a few years earlier in any major metropolis, is both woefully unprepared to deal with a real crime but also underestimated by criminals who know less about the lay of the land than they do, and while there are a few genuinely bad dudes in the mix, when awful things happen, they’re generally a result of mishaps rather than genuine evil. Still, a wicked sense of humor runs throughout as Martin and Musa lean on each other to avoid having deal with anyone they actually know, the comfort of strangers shining through as the film poignantly observes how they’re misunderstood and often misunderstand those closest to them. Although it takes actual bodies to pile up for anyone to take notice, “Wild Men” is conscious of the thousand little deaths that have happened before to drive its antiheroes to such desperate measures and rather than having satisfaction come in taking another’s life, it arrives with taking back control of their own.

“Wild Men” will screen virtually through the Tribeca Film Festival beginning June 14th at 6 pm EST through June 23rd.

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