Friday, May 19, 2023

Baba's Cars / Babas bilar (Sweden, 2006)

An obscure and amusing but hardly imperative Scandinavian crime comedy that offers a decent one-and-one-half hours of smiles and laughs. Think low-level Guy Ritchie with the pacing of Fargo (1996 / trailer) set in Butt-Fuck, Nowhere, Lapland. We were reminded of other eccentric crime burlesques we've enjoyed, like the substantially darker and better Yugoslavian Wheels (1988 / trailer) and the substantially more misogynistic Lithuanian Zero 2 (2010): guns and dead people and over-the-top characterization and at-times almost whimsical visual and situational and character-based humor.
Trailer to
Baba's Cars:

The sophomore directional project of actor and former male model Rafael Edholm (of Operation Ragnarok [2018 / trailer]), Baba's Cars was co-written with Björn Olofsson, with whom Edholm co-wrote his eventual follow-up movie, the thriller, the bomb, that is Mörkt vatten (2012 / trailer). The titular Baba's Cars is a sell-all establishment owned by the eponymous shyster Baba (Hassan Brijany [12 Apr 1961 – 23 Jul 2020]), whose obvious Middle Eastern roots obviously didn't get in the way of siring a stereotypically Swedish-blonde daughter, Anso (Sara Sommerfeld). She is estranged from her daddy ever since he dicked her husband Jojo (a not unattractive Andreas Wilson,* also of Kill Your Darlings [2006 / trailer] and War of the Dead [2011 / trailer]) by gypping him on a car. 
* His "deadly stare is guaranteed to give you a lady-krona" [BuzzFeed]… Hell, his stare could give us a throbbing man-krona.
Jojo, who unlike Russian gangster Ivan (Georgi Staykov) doesn't beat his significant other when she complains, wants nothing but to make his gal happy, but she's sick of eating fish and where he lives, and dreams of a house of their own. All of which leads to Jojo picking up a black Cadillac that Baba procures at a too-good-too-be-true price from Ivan's wife Elena (Laura Malmivaara, of Vares [2004 / trailer], a film we saw and remember nada about), which Baba promptly sells to a chirpy but dryly annoying Norwegian (the always fun Per Christian Ellefsen of Elling [2001 / trailer] and Rare Exports [2010 / trailer])…
By the sound of it all, nothing new but for the bleak, snow-covered Lapland setting. And, indeed, little is new — but for that, a lot of quirky humor built around quirky people doing quirky things, as well as one or two rather bloody laughs. One of the latter, which happens early in the film, concerns a thug's sudden inability to smoke — in regards to blood and burlesque, it is never matched again in the film.
Much of the humor definitely goes over the head of non-Scandinavians (we often felt we seem to be missing something), but enough things hit the mark to make the movie an engaging little crime comedy. The big, final showdown works well, tying in nicely with an earlier scene filmed very much like a typical explain-the-legend scene of a horror film that plays with the concept of the stereotypical never-seen über-boss of the Russian mafia. 
That said, the closing happy-end five minutes is a groaner, if only because no newly married couple is going to drive off into the sunset with their dad in the backseat. For all its laughs and the smiles the film induces, one comes away thinking that Baba's Car could have been tighter, blacker and funnier. And that is why, although entertaining viewing, the movie is hardly imperative viewing. Don't go in expecting a lot, and you'll probably enjoy it (almost) a lot.  
Trivia: Director Rafael Edholm, according to diverse online sources, is one of the male models found in the classic video to Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou's dance classic anthem, Freedom '90, which was directed by David Fincher (Alien III [1992 / trailer]).    
Original video to
George Michael's Freedom:

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