Review: ‘Powder Keg’ is a noble but unsuccessful drama

In February 2015, a man with a gun opened fire in Copenhagen. He attacked the Krudttønden Cultural Centre, discharging more than thirty rounds and killing Finn Nørgaard, a filmmaker who ran outside and tried to overpower the shooter. The following day, the same shooter arrived at the Great Synagogue and killed Dan Uzan, a Jewish community member. This event remains one of the most prominent terrorist attacks in recent Danish history.

Powderkeg, releasing on-demand today by Vortex Media, tells the story of these three men plus a responding police officer. And it’s fine.

Powderkeg is, to be clear, incredibly well performed. In particular, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lars Brygmann, as police officer Rico and filmmaker Finn, are excellent in their roles. Both characters (and indeed all four of the leads) have frustrations in their lives and question their futures in the face of changing life circumstances, and each brings nuance and vulnerability to their roles.

However, ultimately, the film isn’t quite successful. There’s a trick to movies like this one, to balance telling a straight story and mining that story for drama, and Powder Keg only does that with its invented character, Rico. His arc is more complete but also fairly predictable. The film goes to great lengths to make sure we know that all four of the characters had struggles, insecurities, and vulnerabilities in their lives that led them to the places they ended up in, but the bulk of the film is so straightforward that it never gels into something more compelling.

It’s a shame, too, as the 2015 attack is such an important moment in Danish history, but at the same time, I feel like this story might have been better presented as a documentary rather than a drama.

Powder Keg (alternately known as Krudttønden or The Day We Died) debuts on-demand in Canada on Tuesday, September 7th.


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