“Wild Men,” a black comedy from director and co-writer Thomas Daneskov, is an offbeat story of one man’s quest for masculinity. It begins with shades of a bleak survivalist movie, rapidly turning into a film with dry, deadpan humor that will be an acquired taste for many.
Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) is having a full-blown midlife crisis. He’s abandoned his wife and kids and fled to the Norwegian countryside in search of enlightenment and a sense of purpose. Covered in animal pelts and outfitted with primitive weapons (including an axe and a bow and arrow), Martin is so desperate for a meal that he’s resorted to hunting toads for dinner. Things look dire for the man, like he’s coming to the end of his lengthy stint in the wilderness: until we learn he’s been living in the woods for a total of ten days.
That’s the type of punch line that’ll tell you if you have the sense of humor that will either appreciate or be befuddled by the wildly shifting tone of the film. It’s funny to see a grizzled man who is trying so hard to live off the land but just can’t let go of modern conveniences like his cell phone and prepackaged foods. Things get even more bizarre when Martin, mistaken for a “Viking in the woods,” crosses paths with a severely wounded criminal (Zaki Youssef) and a squad of bumbling cops.
The story varies wildly from a tongue-in-cheek comedy-drama to a crime chase that’s bloody and violent. Martin and his nefarious newfound buddy set off to find a village they’ve heard stories about, a magical place where they can join a way of life that is all about living off the land. The pair finally arrive, and it’s certainly not what they had pictured.
Daneskov and Morten Pape‘s script is original and different, but they did not have a clear direction to take the story. The conclusion is disappointing and the tone is strange. I can see where someone with the same wry, oddball sense of humor would find “Wild Men” absolutely hilarious, but to me it is more weird than traditionally funny.