Jackpot’s Most Distinctive Feature Is Its Dark Humor


Jo Nesbø, an extraordinarily successful Norwegian novelist, writes books about hardboiled detectives and bungled murders, feats of elaborate plotting that routinely sell tens of millions of copies.

“Reading The Redbreast,” writes USA Today of the third in Nesbø’s 10-installment Harry Hole series, “is like watching a hit movie” — high praise boasted on the cover of the American paperback edition. It should hardly seem surprising, then, that the author’s work has begun to make the apparently fitting transition to the silver screen, starting with Morten Tyldum’s well-received Headhunters in 2011.

Now we have Jackpot, adapted by Magnus Martens from an original story by Nesbø, whose influence looms over the material about as conspicuously as his bankable name does across the film’s marketing. Nesbø’s style is already quite reminiscent of another popular Scandinavian crime author’s, and comparisons between Jackpot and the exploits of a certain dragon-tattooed hacker are perhaps inevitable.

To that end, the film proves more or less predictably on-trend: From spasms of brutal violence to wildly improbable machinations of plot, Jackpot largely remains within the post-Larsson comfort zone. What tends to set Nesbø’s work apart, as Headhunters proved, is his penchant for making a punch line of every gored torso and decapitated head; true to form, Jackpot‘s most distinctive feature is its almost perversely dark humor.

Certainly, a lot of blood is spilled in the name of laughs. There’s only one problem with its broad attempts at grotesque comedy: Jackpot simply isn’t funny.