It’s not easy to come by Norwegian films about sex, food and crime. At least not many that are also comedies. But “A Somewhat Gentle Man” fits that bill, and it features a ponytailed, mostly blank-faced Stellan Skarsgard (“Mamma Mia!”, “Good Will Hunting”) as an ex-con who’s just finished a 12-year stretch for murder.

It’s not easy to come by Norwegian films about sex, food and crime. At least not many that are also comedies. But “A Somewhat Gentle Man” fits that bill, and it features a ponytailed, mostly blank-faced Stellan Skarsgard (“Mamma Mia!”, “Good Will Hunting”) as an ex-con who’s just finished a 12-year stretch for murder. His Ulrik is an interesting character because, though he has very few social skills, doesn’t like to speak much, and comes across as a kind of lumbering oaf, he just can’t get away from women who seem to want only to bed him.


Set in the gray, snowy environs of Oslo, the film initially presents Ulrik’s post-prison life as a fairly easy return to normalcy. He has coffee with his old pal Jensen (Bjorn Floberg), a petty criminal to whom Ulrik owes both favors and money. But rather than collect, Jensen finds Ulrik both a place to live – a dingy basement room in the home of Jensen’s scowling, frumpy sister Karen (Jorunn Kjellsby) – and a job as an auto mechanic for aptly motor-mouthed Sven (Bjorn Sundquist), who regularly launches into bursts of comically designed wordy monologues.


In keeping with its initially bright and breezy mood, the film is accompanied by an all-too-happy musical score, one that approaches the bounciness of the music that lived in Matt Damon’s head in “The Informant!” The background soundtrack is inexplicably complemented by old pop tunes on radios – in English – ranging from “Angel of the Morning” to “Me and Mrs. Jones.” So it’s a bit of a shock when the plot gets around to becoming a story of revenge. Oh, Ulrik did indeed shoot and kill someone, in a fit of jealous rage. But he was only caught because he was ratted on by a mysterious unseen person, who is now the target of payback by Ulrik, who will be assisted in the caper by Jensen and his goofy puppy dog of a lowly partner, Rolf.


There’s a gun, there’s talk of getting even, there are even side stories about Ulrik’s adult son who tells everyone his father is dead, and about a coworker at the garage who must take out a restraining order against her brute of a husband. There’s plenty of serious stuff to go around. But the filmmakers manage to keep a broad sense of the absurd to their movie.


So we have Ulrik’s terminally unhappy landlady stopping by his room with some leftovers from dinner, eventually making herself “available” to him, and revealing herself as a hilariously uncontrollable screamer – but only after he’s been fed. A visit to his ex-wife (there’s a heck of a back story there) results in more food and her offer of a quickie, to remember the good times). Yet another woman gets his pants off even before he’s had time for a meal.


As the sex scenes get weirder and funnier, the script switches directions to concentrate briefly on honor among thieves, a strained father-son relationship, a warning of what might happen when one woman becomes jealous of another’s company and, finally, a struggle about the difference between right and wrong when it all finally gets back to the business of seeking revenge.


By the film’s end, the drab weather has cleared up, certain characters get what they deserve, and others find something that will likely turn to happiness. You would expect something on the order of “Here Comes the Sun” on the soundtrack. Instead, the closing credits offer up a hip, swinging version of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.” In the midst of all of this movie’s quirkiness, that makes perfect sense.


The Patriot Ledger


A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (Not rated) Written by Kim Fupz Aakeson; directed by Hans Petter Moland. Cast includes Stellan Skarsgard, Bjorn Floberg, Jorunn Kjellsby. 3 stars out of 4.