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Not to be confused with The Who album or movie adaptation, 2014’s Tommy is a Swedish crime thriller from the growing Nordic Noir genre: a grim drama set in the underworld of Stockholm.
Estelle (Moa Gammel) returns to Stockholm after living in hiding in Sri Lanka for a year. Her mission is to claim her husband’s, Tommy, share of a €4 Million heist, threatening that her very dangerous partner will return if she does not get what she came for. Estelle has to go deep into the criminal world, meeting other criminals who worked on the heist whiles the police monitor her actions; Estelle does everything she can to protect her daughter Isabel (Inez Buckner) and younger sister Blanca (Lykke Li Zachrisson).
Tommy‘s best features are its acting and directing. Gammel was excellent in the lead role, a woman that has the odds against her, knows the danger she is in, yet keeps her composure as she faces obstacles. In the crime world, she plans well ahead as she prepares to cause chaos and is able to improvise when required and bluff her way out of situations. At home, Estelle is doing her best to be a good mother to her young child as she explores her relationship with Blanca. Although Tommy is a crime movie, the heart of the movie is Estelle’s relationships with her family and her efforts to protect them. Gammel was very rounded and believable with performance, whether trying to play with her daughter, performing criminal activities or being angry after a setback.
The singer Lykke Li Zachirrson, better known as Lykke Li, makes her acting debut in Tommy and she gives a good performance as the younger sister who is the victim of an abusive relationship. Blanca is not as accustomed in the criminal world as she is thrust into it and is a more vulnerable character. Ola Rapace, best known to international audiences as Patrice in Skyfall, plays Bobby, one of Tommy’s former associates and Blanca’s boyfriend – someone who should be absolutely repulsive, but Rapace is able to make him a much more three dimensional character and a complex figure. Johan Rabaeus was solid as the head gangster Steve.
Tommy is the second feature film from director Tarik Saleh and he shows he has plenty of talent. Tommy has a very gritty look, set mostly in rougher areas of Stockholm, in a world of gray concrete towers, the city is often covered in heavy snow. There are some excellently crafted sequences and shots, such as a scene showing an abandoned train station with all the snow cover making the whole background strikingly white. The violence is infrequent and very impactful as Saleh goes for very brutal realism. One sequence involves a man being tortured with an oven and another being a kidnapping sequence. It was heavy stuff. Scenes in Sri Lanka were more brightly lit, having a golden haze and depicting the place to be a paradise.
Since the success of The Millennium Trilogy, The Killing and many other movies, novels and TV series, Nordic Noir has become a popular genre. There have been many movies coming out from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, similar to what happened in Britain after Guy Ritchie became a success. There was an influx of gangster movies afterwards. In Britain, there have been more and more crime thrillers from Scandinavia released.
Although Tommy is a well acted and directed crime-thriller, the biggest weakness of the movie is the writing. The crime plot of the movie is the very standard mystery of finding what happened to the money and the connections and powerplays that Estelle has to make. It is all very standard stuff and Tommy brings nothing new to the genre. The actors and director had to work extra hard to elevate the material.
Tommy does have a talented cast who gives strong performances, it is excellently directed and centers itself around its family storyline. But the crimes storyline is rudimentary, which makes Tommy struggle to stand out from the crowd of the Nordic Noir genre, let alone crime thrillers as a whole.