*Warning this contains spoilers about the first film, The Hunters*
It has been 15 years since the explosive climax of events from the first film. Erik’s brother had a son named Peter (Kim Tjernström) who lives with his mother Karin (Annika Nordin) and her husband Torsten. At the beginning of the film the entire village is out for a hunt. Peter and Torsten are together hunting as a team. Their job is to catch any strays who survive the hunter’s onslaught.
As the hunt is being organised, a young woman covered with blood is running through the forest. She is obviously running for her life. The camera comes up behind her as she is shot. At the hunt, Torsten gets a call from his boss Mats (Johan Paulsen) telling him that they have found the woman’s car and it is apparent that she has been missing for some time.
The hunt is called off when Torsten arrives and finds the car’s trunk (boot) full of blood.
Erik is sent by his superior to go back to the area to help with their investigations. The reasoning is that as he is from that area he is the most logical detective to go. Erik is far from happy as he knows his nephew Peter is there with his mother. Despite his misgivings he has no choice but to go.
When Erik arrives he finds that the local police really “like” a young man named Jari for the young woman’s disappearance. Mainly because Jari is already suspected of having stabbed Torsten as the two men do not get along.
While search parties comb the area for Elin, the missing girl, the police arrest Jari and take him into custody. When Erik first arrives Torsten is friendly and insists that he meet Karin and Peter. Relations between the two men become strained when Erik insists that the local police investigate the allegations against Jari professionally.
As in the first film, Erik has his work cut out for him while he battles his family and the local police. With his every move being blocked, either by Torsten or Karin and Peter, the tension causes Erik to relive the anguish of his brother’s crimes and his death.
Torsten, who appears to be such an upright member of society at the start of the film, begins to show another less favourable side to his personality.
As much as I loved the first film with its xenophobic atmosphere surrounding local villages and their secrets, False Lead increases the tension to an almost unbearable level. The suspense surrounding Elin’s disappearance and murder and Erik’s frustration at having his every move questioned and blocked make the atmosphere uncomfortable at the very least.
The addition of Peter Stormare to the cast was a brilliant move. He is able to match Lassgård in every scene and the battle between the two “alpha males” becomes a clash of wills where you really wonder who is going to win or be proved right.
Despite the fact that Kjell Sunderland did not write this screenplay, his touch is apparent in every scene and every frame of the film. A 15 year break between the first and second film has not lessened Lassgård’s impact as Backstrom and Storemare does what he does best, playing characters that turn out to be very damaged, strange and dangerous.
Backstrom is a dedicated detective who will not stop until he has solved a crime to his satisfaction. Torsten is a control freak and a bully who uses anyone he can to achieve his goals. Jari, the preferred suspect is a societal misfit who could care less what his peers think of him and he is just as much of an alpha male as the other two men.
In some ways this film resembled the old Columbo formula of the audience knowing who the murderer is and waiting impatiently for Backstrom to prove us right. In this instance we don’t really know, but we damned well suspect someone and it sure isn’t Jari. The main difference was that Columbo cleverly used the criminal’s ego against him and it was this that enabled the rain coated cop to catch his “man.”
Backstrom relies on his “gut instinct” and his need to find all the pieces of the puzzle. He will not stop until he gets to the truth and catches his suspect. In a way, he is the ultimate hunter of both films, the first and the second, and this time he is also a tragic figure who is trying to deal with his guilt over his brother’s crime and death.
This is another great film from Sweden and a brilliant sequel; if you can stand watching it with your teeth gritted and your knuckles white from clenching the chairs arms, it will be well worth the discomfort.
I am not sure about the marketing ploy of it being a Nordic noir film, but it is a damned fine mystery thriller and a real 5 star film. It also makes it crystal clear just what a high calibre actor that Rolf Lassgård is.