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