Now Streaming: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER, Police and Bureaucrats

Anders Beckman and Lotten Roos star in the gripping true-crime series from Sweden, now streaming on SundanceNow.

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Now Streaming: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER, Police and Bureaucrats

Prepare to be chilled to the bone: when horrible things happen, over and over again, in a beautiful area of the world.

The Hunt for a Killer (Jakten på en mördare)
Now streaming on Sundance Now. I've seen all six episodes.

A horrible crime against a young girl is committed in a rural area. Clues must be pieced together, a profile of possible suspects must be assembled, and a dogged detective must solve the case.

All those elements are present in The Hunt for a Killer, inspired by a case that began in 1989. If this was a Hollywood movie instead of a Swedish series, a pair of detectives might wisecrack their way through crime scenes and strip clubs, chase the criminals through the streets on foot and in their cars, and so forth. Those kinds of movies are all too familiar and have become wearisome, with rare exceptions.

This is Nordic noir territory, though. The beautiful scenic locations belie the gradually stultifying atmosphere, because our eyes have been opened to a residue of filth that accumulated in southern Sweden. Somehow, a disturbing number of pedophiles were banished by society to a rural area, where they were out-of-sight and out-of-mind to the good citizens of the larger cities.

But not to the good people who lived in Horby and surrounding communities, where innocent girls and boys were ruthlessly victimized by the dangers lurking everywhere. In Hörby, 10-year-old Helén Nilsson goes for a walk into town to meet up with some friends. It looks safe, peaceful. But she doesn't return home. Her body is found six days later, and the search for her killer begins.

Written by Lotta Erikson (Ikon) and Helene Lindholm (Majken), and directed by Mikael Marcimain (Gentlemen & Gangsters), the show does the audience the courtesy of assuming that each viewer has a modicum of good sense. Thus, in methodical fashion, we mostly look at the case from the perspective of grizzled police detective Pelle Åkesson (Anders Beckman), who initially was forced into an onlooker position as a less experienced, less insightful colleague struggled to work the case, rejecting any suggestions in his stubborn insistence that he was up to the task at hand, buoyed by his desire to protect his career.

In this, he proved himself to be a meek underling to bulldozing police department captain Krister Berg (Rasmus Troedsson), who appears to have been far more deft in handling the political posturing that was inherent in his position of oversight. Berg appears to have been consumed by his inability to see beyond the numbers that were laid out in front of him, allowing budget concerns and bureaucratic inclinations to swamp the investigation, and styling the department after a for-profit corporation.

Åkesson and two of his colleagues, Detective Monica Olhed (Lotten Roos) and Detective Erik Johansson (Håkan Bengtsson), eventually take over the case, though their superiors consistently refuse to provide the support needed to make any real progress on the case. The mounting frustration only grows as the case grows colder and Åkesson is shoved to the sidelines, not allowed to do what he does best, which is solve crimes.

Detectives Olhed and Johansson appear to be better at working within the police bureaucracy that existed at the time, or at least were better able to give the appearance of respect and cooperation with their superiors, even when those superiors were plodding and dim. As the years pass by, the show becomes bleaker in appearance and tone, reflecting the 'one step forward, ten steps backward' posture that they've been forced into. Flashy action moments are rare, as one supposes real life must be, and there is no reliance upon expected contrivances to rev up the storyline. Patience is called for.

Doomed as it may sound, The Hunt for a Killer rewards continued viewing due to the steely persistence of the detectives, reflected in the down-to-earth performances by Beckman, who commands the role like the stoic captain of a sinking ship, and Roos, whose character displays an unusual ability to root out the truth when interviewing suspects.

The gloomy photography and production designs seem to snuff out the sun on the rare occasions when it peeks through the clouds. The detectives are not seeking glory for themselves, but rather justice for terrible crimes that deserve and/or demand punishment.

Even justice delayed is better than none at all.

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Anders BeckmanLotten RoosSundanceNowSweden

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