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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 08.04.17] Denmark thriller

Zaid is a successful surgeon. He has a great job, a nice house, a beautiful wife and a child on the way. He also has a younger brother who runs with a less than reputable crowd and parents who live on the other side of town and have never managed to fully integrate into Danish society since immigrating from Iraq.

On the surface, Zaid's life seems perfect. He's escaped the gang-controlled neighbourhood his parents and brother still call home and when his brother ends up dead at the hands of one of the neighbourhood gangs, Zaid feels responsible for leaving his family behind which in his mind, also led his brother into the thug life which led to his eventual death. Zaid becomes obsessed with avenging his brother and the further Zaid enters Darkland, the clearer it becomes that he has a dark past and perhaps wasn't always the upstanding member of society everyone takes him for.

Writer/director Fenar Ahmad's gives the revenge movie a fresh perspective by simply turning the lens on a culture and community that is typically overlooked. Darkland unfolds in the Arabic community and Ahmad infuses the film with observations and commentary on the cultural divide between where Zaid grew up and where he lives now.

While it is very much a revenge story, Darkland is also a beautifully nuanced tale about the immigrant struggle. Zaid is an upstanding member of society but he's unable to fully remove himself from his culture and where he grew up. In the end, his childhood turns out to be both a blessing and a curse in that it provides him with the tools to fight back but in fighting back, he also puts his family in jeopardy.

What I found most interesting is Ahmad's observations on family dynamics and the love and resentment that are present - often at the same time. This is baked into Darkland, sometimes in more nuanced ways than others.

The movie relies heavily on Dar Salim and his performance as Zaid. He's at the heart of the struggle, both physical and psychological, and Salim delivers a powerful performance; he's particularly good at wordless emoting.

Darkland might sound generic on paper but Fenar Ahmad's revenge thriller mixes a familiar trope with a fascinating and insightful look at the intersection of immigration and gang violence in a world that is both familiar and just a little foreign.

Recommended Release: Bullhead

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