[Editor’s note: The following review contains major spoilers for “The Trip (Onde Dager).”]
In real life, when married people say they think about murdering their spouse, most don’t actually mean it. In Tommy Wirkola’s devilishly fun black comedy “The Trip” (Norwegian title: “Onde Dager”), they do. Landing somewhere in a delicious Venn diagram between thriller, horror, and comedy, “The Trip” is a fast-paced joy ride that should make even the squeamish delight in a little bloodbath. Cheeky and inventive in equal measure, with brilliant performances all around, a whipsmart script and sharp pacing make “The Trip” one of the most fun watches of the year.
(Since much of the fun comes from an endless parade of rabbits Wirkola pulls out of his insane hat, knowing too much about the action could take the edge off. Consider yourself warned.)
The movie opens on a soap opera set, where a smoldering couple is fighting over an outrageous infidelity. “That’s right, I’m pregnant with your dead brother’s son’s baby,” a blonde actress cries, before the sleepy director calls cut. This is Lars (Aksel Hennie), a dissatisfied TV director whose career hasn’t worked out quite how he imagined. He’s heading to his family cabin with his wife Lisa (Noomi Rapace), where they plan to go hiking, a detail he makes sure to share loudly with anyone who will listen, including said blonde actress and his grouchy father. But when he stops by the hardware store for a hammer, saw, and rope, it’s clear he has other plans.
Exuding big “fabulous diva who hasn’t worked in years” energy, Rapace’s Lisa is dialed in from her first dramatic entrance. Sauntering down the driveway in a pink getup with sunglasses, hoop earrings swaying and gum popping, she hands Lars her purse as if he’s the help. With a final glance at the nefarious tools he’s squirreled away, Lars slams the trunk and the rocking title rolls. Buckle up, we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Once at the cabin, the couple needle each other about every little thing. They fiddle over the stove temperature, and when Lars won’t touch the raw steak he’s prepping, Lisa grabs it with her hands. Even their bickering is grounded in an all-too-relatable naturalism that feels forced in most on-screen marriages. After a tense dinner, Lars heads down to the basement to lay out his loot. Soon, he’s sneaking up behind Lisa, hammer in hand. It’s all so early in the film that it seems a prime fake-out. Perhaps he’s just planning some carpentry? But when he lunges at Lisa, she turns around and tases right him in the neck. Oh!
When Lars comes to, he’s tied up and, this time, Lisa is the one holding the hammer. When he admits he planned to kill her for her life insurance, she fesses up to her own similar plan. The camera swings to the left, and yellow block letters announce: “One Day Earlier.” This is the first of many quick flashes in the film, each one revealing information that upends the action in increasingly outrageous ways. It’s a clever trick, and it’s also one that’s never too indulgent. When the same technique introduces three escaped convicts with psychotic Three Stooges vibes, the fun has really only just begun.
There’s a whimsical, Wes Anderson-like quality to the way Wirkola introduces characters and plot twists, though the tone is more Martin McDonagh with a dash of Quentin Tarantino. Like the best McDonagh plays, the violence reaches wildly gratuitous levels without ever feeling like overkill. There’s comedy in the exaggeration, like the sound of brains plopping on the floor or a hand mangled by a boat motor. As the surprises roll in, the plot grows more and more outlandish, revealing the film’s full-on tongue-in-cheekiness. When Lars tells his father, bleeding out in his beloved hammock, “I just blew a guy’s balls off with a shotgun,” dad replies: “I’m proud of you, my son.”
Both seasoned Norwegian talents, Rapace and Hennie are wickedly good together. With her hair dyed a shade of trying-too-hard blonde, she milks humor from the desperate actress routine, despite sporting a quite successful career. Equal parts lumbering and lost, Hennie is the perfect blend of bumbling fool who looks like he could wrestle a mountain lion if he had to. With the right level of empathy and insanity, these two sell the emotion behind the couple’s bloody vitriol, eventually grounding the film in a satisfying human realness. There’s no risk of things turning maudlin once an old man has been shredded by a lawnmower, but it’s nice to find a little light at the end of this bloody, whirlwind tunnel.
“The Trip (Onde Dager)” is currently streaming on Netflix.