AT WORLD’S END. Starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kee Chan, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Nicolas Bro, Steve Berkoff. Directed by Tomas Villum Jensen. Rated M (violence and coarse language). 95minutes.
Denmark’s first ‘big budget’ action movie, filmed in tropical Queensland, is an idiosyncratic spoof of Hollywood adventure films such as the cult classic Romancing the Stone, which does and doesn’t work as entertainment, depending (as many films do) on the age and expectations of the viewer.
From the very beginning, At World’s End demarks its difference from other tongue-in-cheek adventure movies (such as J Lee Thompson’s 1985 King Solomon’s Mines), with an amateurish, clumsy parody of a David Attenborough-style nature documentary that segues almost immediately from high farce to a blood-bath.
In a remote rainforest in Sumatra, a BBC television crew and its cranky presenter are having difficulty filming a frog, when they are mown down by Severin Geertsen (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), a Dane with a machine gun, whose aim is to prevent them from discovering and filming a beautiful flower (nicknamed ‘Hedvig’ by Geertsen), which harbours in its petals the secret of eternal life.
At World’s End cuts quickly to Copenhagen, where the nerdy criminal psychiatrist Adrian Gabrielsen (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a closet chain-smoker whose mother is dying of lung cancer, is told by his boss that he must to fly immediately to Jakarta on behalf of the Danish government, to assess Geertsen’s state of mind.
Geertsen claims to be 129 years-old. This is patently absurd, and unless Adrian can convince the brutal Indonesian military police and their demented leader General Somchaik (Kee Chan) that the Tarzan-like Dane is mentally impaired, Geertsen faces the death penalty.
Accompanying Adrian on his mission to Indonesia is his feisty blonde secretary Beate (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen). Beate has an unaccountable secret passion for Adrian, whose Asperger’s-like social incompetence sets loose a running joke about faulty plumbing and floating turds, which for this viewer soon ran out of steam.
But once in the jungle, on the run with Beate and Geertsen, and pursued by American crooks and the Indonesian military whose sole mission is to bloodily track down and steal Geertsen’s ‘Hedvig’, Adrian in his bumbling fashion discovers qualities in himself that he never knew existed.
Danes (like Australians) have an unorthodox, quirky humour that may make At World’s End for acquired tastes only. The coupling of knock-about satire with violence and bigotry (the Indonesians are portrayed as brutal thugs with a vicious criminal system), lacks sophistication and subtlety, intentionally so. But this, it can be argued, is the film’s appeal (along with stunning cinematography by Jan Richter-Friis).
Mrs Jan Epstein is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.