Darkland: The Return

More of the same.

Sep 12, 2023
Dimitris Passas

Fenar Ahmad's 2017 crime/thriller Darkland was enthusiastically received by the Danish audience, and there were many critics who hailed the movie as the country's response to the American blockbuster revenge story John Wick. Six years later, Ahmad returns for the sequel, starring, once again, Dar Salim in the role of Zaid, a reputable heart surgeron turned vigilante after the murder of his brother in the events that we witnessed in the previous film. Salim turned out to be the optimal choice for an action-hero, as both his bulky physique and subtle acting created a memorable character who, most importantly, feels more human than those featured in the corresponding American films. Both Darkland installments fall under the sub-genre of undercover thriller or infiltrator thriller as it is also known. Those films, in the vast majority, follow a hackneyed, almost banal, recipe that never fails to appeal to the audience's senses as it provides ample opportunities for a high level of suspense and intrigue to be generated from the plot, but these qualities also signify the genre's limits. I sincerely cannot think off the top of my head of a relevant motion picture which ventured to break the strictly defined rules and norms of the genre. If I had to pick one, I would say that Mike Newell's 1997 Donnie Brasco is one of the defining movies in the infiltrator thriller category, a production of high-quality covering the entirety of its aspects.

Following the fallout of Darkland's shattering finale that found Zaid committing three murders while being on a revenge spree, Darkland 2: The Return (original title: Underverden II) begins with Zaid in prison for his crimes. He has been estranged from his family and barely has a solid image of his 7-year-old son in his head, something that invokes a major amount of pain and becomes one of the story's central sub-plots. The protagonist tries to keep his head down in prison and avoid conflicts with the other inmates; however, this is not always feasible. But, Zaid is no ordinary man as his body is a lethal weapon of its own, allowing him to always prevail in street fights, even when the odds are gravely against him. As he follows a dreary daily routine inside the prison walls, he is approached by a police officer, Helle (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) who tells him that he can have the chance to get out of the lockup if he agrees to go undercover in order to expose the nefarious dealings of a Copenhagen drug-kingpin, Muhdin (Soheil Bavi). Zaid is reluctant at first, but the prospect of reuniting with his family and repairing the burned bridges proves to be stronger than his qualms. The mission is for Zaid to get close to Muhdin and gain his trust, become one of his most trusted goons, and extract the necessary information that the police will use to put him away for good. However, things, as always, don't move according to the plan and Zaid finds himself in dire predicaments whose consequences eventually reach his family and little son.

The main problem with Darkland 2: The Return is that it offers nothing new in terms of story structure and plot and there will be many times in which what you watch on screen will feel heavily reminiscent of similar, American or not, productions. Evidently, originality was not one of the director's, who is also the co-screenwriter, goals, and he settled for a trite repetition of the same plotwise. There are numerous one-to-one combat sequences that seriously stretch the borders of credibility and make Zaid come across as an invincible Übermensch rather than a trained surgeon. On the upside, the optics of the productions are captivating and showcase Copenhagen's gloominess in a way that seems to be a matchless setting for a crime story to unfold. Salim does an impressive job and adds nuances to his portrayal of a character who, at first sight, isn't the best if you want to display your acting prowess. I also liked the actor who plays the villain, Soheil Bavi. Bavi gave a certain edge to his character in a single scene, the only one in which he loses his temper when one of his henchmen dares to openly doubt his leading skills. Muhdi's reaction was quite point-taking. To conclude, the second installment in the Darkland saga stands at the same quality level as its predecessor and will appeal to the masses whose only demand from a genre film is to get entertained without other strings attached. Fans of European crime films, however, will most likely be disappointed.


Darkland 2: The Return
Underverden II
Fenar Ahmad
Written by
Fenar Ahmad, Behrouz Bigdeli
Dar Salim, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Stine Fischer Christensen, Soheil Bavi, Ahmad Ayman
Production Company
Profile Pictures
110 minutes

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