★★ BEFORE WE DIE, C4 Unengaging Nordic noir could do better
The new import is the latest procedural from Scandinavia, this time focusing on Stockholm’s biker gangs. The first episode aired Tuesday night, with the rest of the series available on All4 now. In the age of the boxset binge, this availability is usually a gift - but Before We Die’s forgettable first episode might struggle to convince viewers to log on and continue.
We first met killjoy cop Hanna Svensson on a drugs bust – more specifically, arresting her own son Christian for dealing at a house party. After a rather low-key confrontation, he was taken away and she was left crying in the car. Two years later, Svensson’s moved on and found love with her married colleague Sven. However, after Sven’s sudden disappearance, Svensson was on the case to find her missing lover, while trying to reconnect with her recently released son (there were a lot of Svens and sons flying around).
Shaky camerawork alone cannot build tension - nor can the invasively moody soundtrack
There’s been talk of Before We Die being Sweden’s answer to Sons of Anarchy; watching it felt a lot closer to a Scandi The Bill. The investigation into Sven’s disappearance was lazily developed, with each discovery made by coincidence: Hanna happens to find Sven’s phone in the street; she knocks over the secret file of investigation notes; a suspect literally had his Mobster connections signposted on a big poster. The Mobsters, by the way, is the imaginative name of one of the gangs.
The entire episode skipped along with little purpose. Supposedly the main story will follow the son becoming informant to his own mother on a secretive international crime syndicate. Sounds promising, but there was no indication of this in the opening hour. Mostly just police wandering around with photos of Sven, and talking to bikers ripped from a particularly forgettable Grand Theft Auto mission.There was little of the Scandinavian flair for filmmaking either – more reminiscent of British Noughties primetime TV. Shaky camerawork alone cannot build tension – nor can the invasively moody soundtrack, constantly punctuating any car drive or solemn look as if apologising for the boring presentation. Perhaps most bafflingly, during the car chase finale, the music plodded along like it hadn’t noticed the action.
This whole sequence felt out of place. A chase involving a sensible Volvo estate doesn’t feel particularly Hollywood, even when hitting one of those pesky countryside stunt ramps. It was less Casino Royale’s Aston Martin flip, and more Richard Hillman’s canal crash from Coronation Street. It perfectly summed up an hour of television that was logically flawed and unimaginatively presented. Good luck to those logging on to see if that promising premise pays off.