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Film / The Hunters

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"Relax. There's not a cop around for ten miles."

The Hunters (Swedish Jägarna) Is a 1996 Swedish Nordic Noir film, written and directed by Kjell Sundvall.

Stockholm cop Erik (Rolf Lassgård) has decided to move back to his hometown in northernmost Sweden, after being involved in a traumatic shootout with a robber. Arriving on the day of his father's funeral, Erik receives a warm welcome from his brother Leif (Lennart Jähkel) and all his childhood friends. Deciding to stay, he takes a job as a criminal detective in their small town, and immediately takes an interest in the widespread poaching which the other cops seemingly aren't troubled by at all.

Unbeknownst to Erik, he has just set some terrible gears in motion, and he might not like what he finds in this Town with a Dark Secret.

Savage and disturbing even by Nordic Noir standards, The Hunters draws inspiration more from films like Deliverance, Straw Dogs (1971) and First Blood than the standard Police Procedural fare. It helped to cement the image of "Norrland" (Everything from Hälsingland and above) as a sort of Hillbilly mixture between the Savage South and Grim Up North for the rest of the country. Needless to say, many Norrlanders either hate or adore this movie (and Kjell Sundvall) to this day.

The film has had a couple of sequels after its first release, with one film releasing in 2012, and a series premiering November 2018, both of which have gotten quite alot of praise, though the latter more than the former. The 2012 film centers around Leif's biological son Peter and his adoptive family, with the father Torsten (Peter Stormare) being Erik's latest colleague when a brutal murder on a woman occurs during a hunting event, and eventually Erik is forced to choose between loyalty or morality when he realizes that someone not so far away from them are committing the murders. The 2018 series introduces the character Markus Lindmark, a cave entrepreneur and businessman from humble beginnings who is criticized due to his projects potentially damaging the landscape, and that's when a ruthless murderer comes along who instantly attacks Markus and his business for unknown reasons. Once again however, as Erik grows more attached to the case, he notices even more corruption everywhere than he ever could have predicted, and has to make up his mind if he wants to stand against everyone else in his quest to reveal the truth, or if he needs to save his own skin this time.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Axel (Erik and Leif's dad) was by all accounts an utter monster, with Leif bearing the brunt of the abuse.
    • As a Rule of Symbolism, the sequel also has this. Torsten, Peter's adoptive father after Leif died, constantly abuses the family and is the true killer. It's supposed to give a kind of glimpse on how Leif's childhood probably was and how he ended up like he did.
  • Antagonist Title: The Hunters, of course.
  • Asian Hooker Stereotype: Leif's gang treats Nena (the Filipina waitress at their Local Hangout) like this.
  • Big Bad:
    • The original film has Leif Bäckström, Erik's brother who has become a ruthless poacher since Erik's been away from him and has developed his father's hatred and racism, different from Erik.
    • The 2012 sequel has Torsten, a cold, sociopathic corrupt cop who is behind the recent murders, all so that his "family", which he constantly abuses, wouldn't break with the realization that he is cheating.
    • And in the 2018 series, while every episode hasn't been released yet, the main villain at first seems like Benjamin Abrahamson, who targets the wealthy mining company owner Markus Lindmark, seemingly out to criticize his business affecting the nature of Norrland, but turns out he's really out for revenge because Markus destroyed his father's career. Benjamin is killed in the fourth episode on Markus' orders, setting up the true villain as Markus Lindmark himself, who is willing to kill anyone who remotely critizes his business.
  • Book Ends: The first film begins and ends with a funeral.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal example. Erik is able to tie Tomme to the poaching racket, because he recognizes his gun (a hunting rifle with a wolf's head stock) in the bootleg slaughterhouse.
  • Cool Car: The Hunters ride classic American muscle cars and 4x4's everywhere they go.
  • Cop/Criminal Family: Erik, the investigator and Leif, the malevolent criminal.
  • Corrupt Cop: Erik's partner Lasse Bengtsson is as chummy with the poachers as you can get.
    Lasse: "Erik, listen to me. We don't have any serious crime like you did in Stockholm. We need to keep a good relation with these people."
    Erik: "You're coddling them, and they're laughing behind your backs. Can't you see that?"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The series is setting up Markus Lindmark as the true main villain, and kills people who criticize him and his business because he wants to complete his current projects which are constantly stopped by activists.
  • The Deep South: In this case, it is actually The Deep North. The film takes place in Norrland, which is locaten in northern Sweden, but the antagonists are the Swedish equivalent of Hillbillies.
  • Dirty Cop: Torsten in the sequel is utterly batshit despite his facade of a kind and well-meaning if slightly harsh family man and constatly abuses his family both emotionally and physically. He's also the true killer behind everything occuring in the small town, which ironically he does because he cheated on his wife and doesn't want the truth to come out because it could tear apart the family.
  • Dirty Coward: Håkan is the most chicken-livered of all the hunters, and panics at any sign of trouble.
  • Finn With a Knife: Tomme in the first film, and Jari in the second.
  • From Bad to Worse: What started out as a relatively standard poaching racket although on a massive scale and involving Eriks family and friends escalates into a crescendo of rape and murder. Four people end up dead, including Eriks brother and half-brother.
  • Grim Up North: Takes place in Norrbotten, located in northern Sweden and has a very dark tone.
  • New Old West: To such a degree, that a Hollywood remake was actually in development for a while. However, Kjell Sundvall cut it off because he didn't think the plot (modern day Nevadan cowboys maiming ranch horses for fun) was a good enough cultural translation of poaching in Northern Sweden.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Hunters gang-rape Nena to spite Erik, in a very disturbing scene.
  • Roguish Poacher: What the townsfolk view Leif and the boys as.
  • Sanity Slippage: Leif starts suffering from this when he realizes he won't make it.
  • Slaughterhouse Fight: Erik gets in to one with Tomme twice.
  • Evil Poacher: What the titular hunters actually are.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: When Ove is lured by Leif to be Shot at Dawn under the guise of a hunting trip, he catches on to him and pulls the trigger. It's empty.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Ove, a developmentally disabled man who can hardly speak, and spends most of his time in a watchtower whittling wooden guns. He witnesses Leif murdering the Russian berrypickers wife and things go downhill from there.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Leif, who is very openly racist and goes on a huge rant about how much he hates immigrants. This is definitely inherited from his father, though.
  • Write What You Know: Director and co-writer Kjell Sundvall is a Norrlander himself.