Flame and Citron
Directed by Ole Christian Madsen
Flame and Citron, about two members of the formidable Holger Danske resistance group in Denmark, is the latest in a line of movies like This Land is Mine, Schindler's List and Black Book that have tapped the fruitful dramatic vein of the conscientious "good ones" who stood up against overwhelming forces of Nazi evil before and during World War II. Danish director Ole Christian Madsen's admitted model was Army of Shadows, the definitive French resistance film. Flame and Citron — slick, attractive, and violent — approximates the Jean-Pierre Melville movie's attitude and veneer, but there's some feeling for the cruciality of their mission missing at the core. The result is the same that plagues so many period pieces — a just-adequate wateriness that makes it more Valkyrie than classic.
Chic and righteous, Flame, a.k.a. Bent (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron, a.k.a. Jorgen (Mads Mikkelsen) look really cool, which matters in a movie mostly interested in image. Lindhardt, especially, with his shock of red hair and petulant face, seems like a hip poster boy for political assassination. After an archival footage opening, over which Flame repeatedly intones, "What were you thinking?", the film settles in to a repetitive series of smooth, almost too easily executed killings of German agents and Danish informers. It's baffling that the hatless, standout Flame is so elusive, but Madsen hints that he's aware of his movie's more flamboyant graphic novel qualities. The Holger Danske core are revealed around a bar table, Goodfellas-style, surely another prime source of Madsen's film school enthusiasm for sleek brutality. Inevitably, doubts about the morality of their actions (though never the goal) begin to cripple the partners. The failed family man Jorgen is already shaken in his certainty by the time they kill an innocent boy while trying to take out the head of the Danish Gestapo. "There is no just or unjust any longer. There is war," he says. In a genre often unclouded by moral ambiguity, the thought is refreshing, but its echo sounds hollow within the drably stylish world of Flame and Citron.
Opens July 31