Cop Secret (Leynilögga) is an immensely entertaining action comedy that offers plenty of surprises even though its familiar storyline has nothing that can be classified as top secret. This Icelandic variation on the tough-cops-as-buddies sub-genre may seem like an unusually lightweight pick for Locarno’s main competition line up. But if you are into well-crafted and energetic chase sequences, extended shoot-outs with villains who keep refusing to die, or simply cool people doing cool stuff in cool locations, it’s difficult not to have some breezy fun with director Hannes Þór Halldórsson’s debut feature.
The premise revolves around a series of bank robberies, but the hook is that the criminals actually leave the banks without taking anything. Bussi, described as a “super cop” on several occasions, is assigned to this mysterious case. However, Bussi’s popularity is threatened as a considerably richer and more handsome rival cop named Hördur starts to attract media attention. Unsurprisingly, the two cops are forced to join forces to solve the case, with the mastermind behind the strange robberies revealed to be a past colleague of Hördur’s from his modeling days. This is where Cop Secret gets playful and starts to deconstruct genre conventions. What initially appears to be a fast-paced action movie with a Nolan-esque sense of grandeur and humorous machismo reminiscent of popular Jason Statham vehicles gets a charmingly queer update in Halldórsson’s hands. Bussi is struggling with his sexuality and when Hördur becomes his partner in the robbery case, sparks of romance fly between the two toughest cops in the country. Hördur is completely at ease with himself while Bussi’s reluctance to come out is treated in an affirmative manner, with his former girlfriend supporting his decision and encouraging him to be with Hördur. In a humorous exchange, Hördur even exclaims that it is 2021 and no one actually cares about Bussi’s sexuality! If you have seen a few films from franchises like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, you probably know where Cop Secret is headed, but it’s unlikely that you have seen such a positively queer Nordic version of this story before.
Hannes Þór Halldórsson is well-known as the goalkeeper of Iceland’s national football team, therefore it hardly qualifies as a surprise when a big soccer game between England and Iceland plays a pivotal role during the climax of the film. It is easy to guess how a dangerous countdown or an extended fight sequence will play out as the film nears its conclusion, but Halldórsson cleverly plays with gender-based genre expectations once again. The major game that excites the whole nation is a women’s soccer match; both the police chief and the bomb squad leader are strong women; and the two tough cops kiss their way through the fight!
The Icelandic setting adds further novelty value and humor to what otherwise functions as solid but standard genre fare. Iceland is known to be one of the most peaceful countries in the world; one of the often-repeated clichés about the Icelandic police force is that they do not regularly carry firearms. Apparently that rule does not apply to the officers in Cop Secret, with the body count rising at an absurd pace throughout the film. The extreme complexity of the Icelandic language is gently mocked with the main villain delivering most of his lines in English for no apparent reason. And while Reykjavik is usually considered to be one of the smallest capitals in Europe, Halldórsson presents the city in excessively glamorous fashion, with glossy skyscrapers filling the cityscape in many polished aerial shots. For audiences expecting yet another entry in the dark, unhurried, and pessimistic canon of Nordic noir, Cop Secret provides quite an extraordinary reversal. This is a lively and cheerful ride with relentless action from start to finish.
Cop Secret is not a particularly memorable or ambitious film; but its progressive approach to gender and sexuality, strong craftsmanship, and clever reversal of cultural stereotypes elevate a routine storyline. Following this promising first feature, Halldórsson’s transfer to Hollywood in order to helm an extravagant action comedy with a star like Dwayne Johnson seems imminent.