The first Wallander novels by Henning Mankell were published in Sweden in the early 1990s. There have been Wallander movies and TV series in Sweden, as well as a British adaptation with Kenneth Branagh as the depressed detective Kurt Wallander that played in the U.S. on Masterpiece: Mystery.
But Wallander: The Revenge is the first of the Swedish adaptations to reach this country, in the wake of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-inspired frenzy for Scandinavian mystery-thrillers.
The Branagh version was slow-moving and understandably depressive; this version, with Krister Henricksson in the central role, has the headlong sense of purpose of an episode of Law & Order. It's not significantly more stylish -- and not much deeper, for that matter.
The attraction of this series is meant to be the complexity of Wallander's emotional life. In the series, he's got a dead marriage, a tentative but fragile relationship with his daughter, a father diagnosed with Alzheimer's and potentially the same diagnosis somewhere in his future. He's abrupt with coworkers and subordinates, but able to make deductive leaps worthy of the hero of a series of detective novels.
Only a little of the latter bleeds into this film, directed by Charlotte Brandstrom. Part of a series for Swedish TV, it moves adroitly from plot point to plot point, building to a surprising conclusion. Wallander must untangle a series of murders that seem to be tied to terrorism and an art exhibit deemed offensive by the local Muslim community.
But Wallander comes a little too quickly and easily to the key person who holds the answer to the puzzle of what ties the victims to each other. And his abruptness is, in fact, treated as a cliché, as he acts dismissively with a female trainee (Nina Zanjani), then warms to her as she proves herself.
Henricksson has the right world-weary tone for Wallander, the wrinkled road-miles on his face. But if you're not a Mankell aficionado prior to seeing Wallander: The Revenge, the film itself won't send you running for his books -- or even the other parts of the TV series.
Find more interviews, reviews and commentary on my website.