Dir: Aage Rais-Nordentoft. Denmark. 2004. 95mins.
Mixing football with the problems of adolescence has become something of a sub-genre in recent years. Purely Belter and Bend It Like Beckham opened the scoring for England; now the Scandinavians have begun to lob their own teen soccer tales into the area, with United, a Norwegian film which screened in the Kinderfilmfest 14plus sidebar in Berlin, and the Danish Kick 'n Rush, which featured both in 14plus and in the official Panorama section.
With Trust selling and the von Trier production team of Vesth, Tardini and Aalbaek Jensen holding the purse-strings, Kick 'n' Rush clearly has more than half an eye on the international market. But although the film has a solid script, some nice performances by its young leads and a catchy pop-reggae soundtrack, it is somewhat formulaic in the way it dribbles between the youth team that the three 16-year-old protagonists play for and their off-pitch scrapes and fumbling attempts at first love.
It is also (unless this was a Berlinale projection glitch) not the best advertisement for the DV-to-35mm route: sure, it keeps the budget down, but there are times when the low-resolution nature of the exercise really grates.
Firmly in the Danish tradition of intelligent films for the over-14 market (director Nordentoft's first feature, Anton, screened in the Kinderfilmfest in 1996), Kick 'n Rush scored a modest 75,000 admissions on its late 2003 release. It is unlikely that many overseas distributors are going to want to take a chance on what is a fairly universal but also fairly unambitious slice of youth cinema; but with its small-screen values, the film should enjoy some sort of TV afterlife.
The story centres on three schoolfriends, Jakob, Mikkel and Bo, who hang out together in one of those Scandinavian towns where there's nothing much to do except play football, rent videos, ogle girls, and perform small but satisfying acts of vandalism.
The darker side of the story coalesces around Bo, the most mature but also the most angry of the three friends, whose budding football career is threatened when he takes up with some dodgy youths from the wrong side of the tracks and starts getting into sex and drugs before his two erstwhile mates have even left first base.
The script is at its best when exploring the pains and misunderstandings of first love, and the intense but volatile nature of adolescent friendship. Jakob Oliver Krarup is good as Jakob, the film's main narrative focus, who gets the sympathy vote as the regular guy, neither particularly brave, not hugely talented, nor especially Adonis-like, who complains at one point that "everything I do seems to be wrong - and if I do nothing, that's wrong too".
Production cos: Jutlandia Film, Filmbyen 24
International sales: Trust Film Sales
Executive producer: Peter Aalbaek Jensen
Producers: Louise Vesth, Ib Tardini
Screenplay: Jesper Wung-Sung, Aage Rais-Nordentoft
Cinematography: Jacob Banke Olesen
Production design: Thomas Greve
Editor: Mahi Ragozar
Music: Under Byen
Main cast: Jakob Oliver Krarup, Marie Bach Hansen, Cyron Bjorn Melville, Esben Smed, Niels Ellegaard, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen