Fantastic Fest: Plan C

Dutch detective Ronald Plasmeyer is not a model law enforcement agent. He has managed to amass a goodly amount of debt thanks to his propensity for losing substantial sums of money at poker. To make matters worse, the Chinese mob, to whom Ronald owes much of his debt, has begun threatening his son and ex-wife. In over his head already, he decides the best way to unburden himself of his debt is to orchestrate a robbery of the illegal casino wherein he tends to dump his cash. Enlisting the services of two local crooks, Ronald wagers that his troubles are about to end. If Plan A was winning at cards, and Plan B was the robbery, it’s safe to say Ronald is now in dire need of a Plan C.

At last year’s Fantastic Fest, we were introduced to the Norwegian crime comedy/thriller Headhunters from director Morten Tyldum. Headhunters was a smash at the fest, and actually surpassed mere compartmentalized distinction to earn as spot as one of the overall best films of the year. This year has so far yielded no shortage of foreign crime comedies, from Scandinavia and elsewhere (as is clearly the case here). If one were prioritizing which of this year’s crop to seek out, Jackpot should be Plan A, fellow 2012 Fantastic Fest offering Fuck Up should be Plan B, and, sadly fittingly, this would be Plan C. It’s not as if Norway were the only country allowed to make this type of movie, but Max Porcelijn’s Plan C lacks the energy and imagination of the prominent titles from further north.

Most of the fault for the sluggishness of Plan C lies with its lead character. Actor Rueben van der Meer brings a sincere blue-collar schlub quality to the role, but the character is not as intricately defined as one would hope, and frankly is a bit too unlikable for his own good. The interesting paradox here is that almost without fail in movies like this, the lead character is the perpetrator of the crime at the center of the comedy/thrill. Though the occasional exception is the sap pulled into the criminal conspiracy through no fault of his/her own, it’s not innocence that dictates amiability, and antiheroes tend to thrive within this genre. However, Ronald alternates between being a colossally brainless d-bag and a total bore. His cavalier attitude toward his own gambling problem, even when his actions endanger his own family, is off-putting and he does little to earn back affection from the audience from that point forward.

The script is basic to a fault; far too straightforward to stand out. The plot points click along at a predictable time signature, with the built-in surprises seeming anything but. When we see the stress fractures in a character’s nefarious designs, it must at least be visually compelling to observe the telegraphed fall and resulting chaos. Unfortunately for the patiently waiting audience observing Plan C, the match that lights the powder keg is as underwhelming as the faint pop that follows where a thunderous bang should be. The ending  of the film, which should be a firm turning point for the character, passes without so much as a glimmer of satisfying resolution. There are moments of levity, the conversations between the two hired criminals in the car for example, and the performances are strong throughout. However, there is nothing memorable about Plan C, which places it in very real danger of being lost in the shuffle of fantastic northern European genre fare.

The Upside: Solid performances and moments of effective humor.

The Downside: Otherwise woefully average.

On the Side: This is director Max Porcelijn’s first feature film.

Grade: C


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