Long gone are the days when high-class reporters could jet-set around the country in order to catch a big scoop or nail an exclusive before the competition, but, in the world of ANNIKA BENGTZON, there’s still a glimmer of those fashionable yesterdays. As a crime reporter for a media conglomerate, she makes it her job to corral the big story even if that means she has to sacrifice any semblance of a family life or throw caution to the wind with respect to her personal safety. She’ll track down the evidence. She’ll keep after the police when others have moved on. She’ll stop at nothing to uncover what nefarious deed has been done, and, if it’s at all possible, bring those who beat the crime to justice.
But she won’t be there to pick up her kids when school lets out! No, no. In Bengtzon’s world, that’s a man’s job … if she can find one to do it.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Forty years ago, an act of terror believed to have been perpetrated by those pesky Russians left one Swedish soldier dead, but, even today, the crime remains an oddity for Benny, a reporter. Benny believes that either the military or the government conspired to keep the true terrorist’s identity a secret. As the fortieth anniversary of the event approaches, Benny grows restless and is unwilling to leave it alone … until a parked car pulls away from the curb one night and runs him over. Now, it’s up to Annika Bengtzon – Crime Reporter – to avenge her fallen comrade with an investigation that might just point toward those in political power today!
As much as I enjoy the BENGTZON mysteries (for the record, this is the second collection I’ve begun making my way through), they do appear at times woefully out-of-step with the times. As I implied above, reporters don’t typically operate in such dire predicaments these days as, more and more, the truly big news stories are broken by some ace reporter unaffiliated with any individual operation from an internet café. Such is progress as its come to be known by man. For the purposes of ‘keeping it real’ (or a reasonable facsimile), Bengtzon harkens back to a kinder, gentler place where reporters at the big paper still have a chance. (This is, in part, entirely plausible given that these stories take place in Sweden, so I’ll give it a pass.)
But I found it difficult to muster up any real measure of caring about the story on display here. Rebels disillusioned with the political establishment forty years ago end up being seasoned citizens here. Though they’re obviously still capable of inflicting some damage by way of “geezer noir” (those of you who know the term can chuckle all you like), it’s been my experience that legitimate hippies sold out two decades back in order to get inside, co-opt the systems, and accomplish the revolution from the inside looking out and not vice versa. Granted, maybe things are a bit different (in Sweden), but the last I’d looked I thought that tactic was pretty universal.
There are a handful of murders that take place in the tale. Sadly – as the audience never really truly comes to know any of these victims prior to their assuming room temperature – it’s hard to get riled up about much of it. In fact, one might make the accusation that the murders became a bit gratuitous (though not bloody), taking place as they did in order to give some hot-looking blonde reporter something to go and report about. Given the fact that her personal life is in the toilet, maybe she had better give that some attention soon, no?
ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER: THE RED WOLF  is produced by Yellow Bird Films, Degeto Film, TV4 Nordisk Television, Nordisk Film, and Filmpool Nord. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by MHZ Networks. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, here you go: this is a Swedish spoken language release with English subtitles available. (No, there is no English dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications, I’m increasingly impressed with the quality of the sight and sound that goes into BENGTZON; it’s nothing short of incredible, though some of the shooting locations this time around were far from the glamor of past installments. Sadly – as is too often the case when these foreign productions find release on American shores – there are no special features to speak of. (Shame on you, Sweden! For shame!)
RECOMMENDED though I’ll admit that it was all a bit muddled in the end. It’s clear that THE RED WOLF tried desperately to take the politics of old (from four decades ago) and transplant them into contemporary times, but I’m not entirely certain if it wanted to say that yesterday’s rebels today are far-sighted, short-sighted, or misguided. Whatever the case, Bengtzon stayed on the job up until the bitter end, and this time out her dedication to the story finally cost her more than just some petty physical abuse: love is no longer looking out for this reporter.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Networks provided me with a DVD copy of ANNIKA BENGTZON, CRIME REPORTER: THE RED WOLF by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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