Executive Protection (2001)
A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005
Action genre is probably the last place where the audience could discover serious and sober exploration of important social, economical and political issues, especially those usually ignored by today's "infotainment" media. One of the rare exceptions to this is Sweden, country famous for quality crime and action films about Martin Beck and Carl Hamilton - based on the characters created with clear political or ideological agenda. So, it isn't surprising that some Swedish action films tend to engage, rather than insult viewers' intelligence. One of them is EXECUTIVE PROTECTION, 2001 film directed by Anders Nilsson.
EXECUTIVE PROTECTION is the second film in the series about Johan Falk (played by Jacob Eklund), maverick police detective from Gothenburg. While he attends a funeral of his adoptive father in rural Sweden, he meets old friends, including rich industrialist Sven Persson (played by Samuel Fröler). Sven asks Johan a favour because he made a mistake of major investment in Estonia - a prime target for extortion by local gangs. Even worse mistake was hiring German "security specialist" and former STASI operative Nikolaus Lehman (played by Christoph M. Ort) to handle the problem. Lehman and his team simply snuffed the extortionists and, much to Sven's horror, demanded outrageous sum for his service. Sven and his family are now subject of increasingly unpleasant intimidation campaign, and Sven asks Johan for help. Johan, knowing that bureaucratic Swedish police can't handle the job, goes for help among his former colleagues that run private security firm. They set up a 24/7 protection around Sven and his family, but Lehman proves to be more skilful and more ruthless than anyone has imagined.
As an action film, EXECUTIVE PROTECTION had budget significantly lower than its Hollywood genre counterparts. This is reflected in isolated rural setting and somewhat limited number of action scenes or characters serving as cannon fodder. On the other hand, Nilsson, who had experience with action genre in the past, compensates the lack of usual thrills with steady and confident direction, and, until the very end where usual cliches (ridiculously close race against time) take over, EXECUTIVE PROTECTION looks much better than an average Hollywood action film.
The reason for this is in very good script by Nilsson and Joakim Hansson. The plot is revealed slowly, but the audience is allowed to understand its fine points. The acting is great, although the character of female security specialist Pernilla appears to be invented only to justify casting of Alexandra Rapaport. However, the biggest asset of the film is in its ability to tell not only exciting, but also socially and politically relevant story. Through their characters, filmmakers argue that the end of Cold War and European unification could have ultimate aftermath far from the idealistic visions of 1989. They claim that post-Communist chaos and anarchy in Eastern Europe could spread westwards through the pathways created by globalisation process. In other words, the forces behind deadly combination of street thuggery and crony capitalism that dominates many areas of Eastern Europe are going to apply some of their techniques perfected during privatisation process in order to gain equal power in countries like Sweden, which so far haven't experienced such phenomena. EXECUTIVE PROTECTION is, therefore, a film that could be used as an interesting argument in current debates about European Union expanding eastwards. And even those who don't care about those issues are going to appreciate EXECUTIVE PROTECTION as a good piece of genre entertainment.
RATING: 6/10 (++)