There’s Been A Murder? Mamma Has To Work!

This is how it all started, the endless emails to friends and family about this groovy Scandinavian crime drama, and a weird habit I got into of reciting the title out loud to myself and others in this really loud, flaky, exaggerated Swedish accent (or what I told myself was a good facsimile of a Swedish accent…P.S. don’t try this at Ikea!)  Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter is to blame for my decision to finally start a blog about the best of streaming entertainment.  I literally stumbled upon it one day as I was languishing in browsing limbo and it was like BAM, Here She Is.  A strong female lead who’s not too strong, pretty but not too pretty, who’s got a demanding job she loves which puts even more demands on a complicated personal life.  A real, modern woman just trying her best to balance her career ambition with a fulfilling, complete family life.

Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter is a series of six mini movies based on the popular Swedish crime novels by author, Liza Marklund. The series was produced by Yellow Bird Films, the same company behind the original Swedish Wallander (before Kenneth Branagh Anglo-filed it) and the seminal Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy, which many believe kick-started a Scandinavian cinema genre referred to as Nordic Noir.  I would call the mood in AB:CR more Nordic Gray than Noir, although the Stockholm backdrop certainly has its moody, inky palette, for sure .  All six episodes were shot back to back in just 18 months, a grueling production schedule that could have doomed the show but in this case produced a tight, organic level of writing, directing and acting.  Annika is played with a natural charm and tomboy athleticism by Swedish actress, Malin Crepin, whose fresh faced good looks are never a substitute for her character’s intelligence, compassion and tenacity.

 

SnapShot Plot

Each episode finds Annika (a crackerjack crime reporter for one of Stockholm’s biggest daily newspapers) at the center of a sensational, high profile murder case, up against a variety of nefarious characters drawn from a wide net, ranging from Nobel prize judges to strip club managers.  While she’s clearly hungry for the top spot at the paper, she’s not ruthlessly ambitious.  She wants the scoop, but more importantly, she wants to do right by the victim and tell an honest story, which often puts her at odds with the headline grabbing culture of a big city newsroom.  The pressures follow Annika home, where her boyfriend and two small children often come in second when she’s summoned away on a breaking crime story.  Malin Crepin is very effective in showing us this central, emotional tug of war her character wages almost on a daily basis.  In many scenes, Annika shows up to work or on assignment with pronounced circles under her eyes, which she’s made no effort to disguise.  Sometimes it looks like she’s barely combed her hair and she’ll often go to work sporting oversize tee shirts, jean jackets and even – in the final episode with a Mediterranean location – cutoff dungaree shorts with black hi-top Keds.  This natural, breezy beauty is a refreshing change from the surgically altered mannequins who pass for female leads in most Hollywood series….. and let’s not even start about the Housewives franchises.

 

Parting Shot

Even if some plot setups or characters may seem slightly silly, Malin Crepin keeps the tone right on track, and it’s her central performance that really makes this series work so well.  Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter makes for perfect summer viewing.  It’s not Bergman, folks, but it’s just dramatic enough to make you really care about this character and the exciting but challenging life she’s made for herself.  A thoroughly entertaining series which I know you’ll enjoy….Skål!

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Featured Image Courtesy of:  http://www.cinemotions.com

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  http://www.youtube.com/user/RialtoDistribAUS?feature=watch

4 Comments

  • Daryl says:

    So there I was, home alone on a Saturday night with a hankering for some good streaming entertainment. Lucky for me I had Norma’s Streaming Pics as my ally. I am a huge fan of Scandinavian crime dramas, especially the Swedes, so Annika Bengzton was right up my ally.

    Norma’s perspective was spot-on and, although I only watched the first episode, I’m hooked. Yes, this series is much less hard-boiled than some others, but I’ve never read Marklund’s novels so I can’t comment on the tone of her original.

    I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series…and then dive into another of Norma’s pics!

    • Norma says:

      Daryl, I am so glad that Norma’s Streaming Picks helped make a Saturday night home alone a more rewarding experience than re-runs of Frasier or the Not-So-Real-Housewives (oh wait, that’s me!) Seriously, it’s wonderful to hear that Annika hooked you the way it hooked me. I plan to include more Nordic Noir movies and series in the blog, as there seems to be no shortage of compelling shows and movies from our chilly neighbors to the North. Thanks and stick around for more!

  • John Malay says:

    Agree this is an addictive series although I am less impressed with Ms. Crepin. Seems a bit more like a grumpy fashion model than a serious crime reporter to me, although all these Scando shows indicate that life up there is a bit more informal. E.g., guys – even government ministers – don’t seem to bother shaving regularly or tucking in their shirts.

    And frankly, putting our intrepid reporter at the Costa del Sol so she could shed her remaining clothing seemed a bit manipulative, not that I am complaining.

    The Yellow Bird Wallendar was miles ahead of the Masterpiece Theatre version and their “Girl” trilogy was much better than the Hollywood feature, so maybe I had my sights set a bit high.

    • Norma says:

      I agree with your observations about Nordic cinema and TV, which has already proven to be more compelling than the average Hollywood product. And although I don’t see Annika in quite the cynical terms you do, I had to smile at your take on the last episode; I too was a bit surprised at how quickly the crime story seemed to take a back seat to sun-drenched romance. But by that point, I was already sad to see the season end, and who doesn’t enjoy some Mediterranean romance, after all?
      Thanks, John, for your thoughtful feedback. Glad you’re on board!

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