It wasn’t until I found Den demokratiske terroristen that I learned that Sweden has their own James Bond-like crime fighting figure. And why not? But unlike the suave suit-clad Englishman, it takes Carl Hamilton (portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård, perhaps better known these days outside of Scandinavia as the father of Alex aka True Blood’s Eric Northman) until halfway through the film before he beds one of the “bad guys”…err “bad girls.” And he doesn’t have any nifty technology. Nor does he have a sports car from Volvo or Saab. He’s really not that much like James Bond, come to think of it other than that spy thing. But that’s probably why Den demokratiske terroristen, in all its early ’90s cheesiness and set in Hamburg, Germany is a pretty good thriller.
At barely over an hour and a half long, Den demokratiske terroristen doesn’t have much time to spend on silly things like back story. They jump right into the action. Hamilton is assisting the German police — his main German contact is portrayed by the great Ulrich Tukur — in infiltrating a Red Army Faction satellite group (which includes the late Susanne Lothar as a member). It doesn’t take much for him to get the group’s attention — merely beating up a guy playing pinball at a bar and then robbing a bank — to gain their trust and to be welcomed in with relatively open arms and surprisingly few questions. Knowing the location of the gang’s hideout, Hamilton could call it a day. Instead he masterminds a plan for the gang to attack a foreign government building in Sweden and then heads with them to the Middle East for purchase and pick up of some serious weaponry. Weaponry that Hamilton wryly notices were made in Sweden.
Part of what makes Den demokratiske terroristen a likable film is the era in which it was made. No, it’s not the best and brightest high tech thriller. It’s like so many of the films set in Germany from that time: kind of dark and miserable like the weather but with a directness and a slight bit of humor from dry one-liners. It’s enough to make you seek out the book of the same name by Jan Guillou, who created the character, or any of the other films following Hamilton’s adventures.