Ignore the title and marketing blurb for this film; they're largely irrelevant to the plot and atmosphere. There is no 'city brought to its knees.' It's not a Hollywood-style car chase, running, shouting and shooting movie, but instead plays to the strengths of mature, unflinching Nordic noir.
Set in modern-day Iceland, the plot revolves around a dominant crimelord who's trying to retire and sell his 'business'. When he over-reacts to the theft of some drugs, he falls foul of an Eastern European mafia family whose brutal methods and youthful savagery threaten to overwhelm his experience and stature. Parallel plot threads explore and interweave the stories of a corrupt, dissolute older detective (who has fallen in love with a whore) and a brittle but violently determined female SWAT officer (who is also romantically entangled with the wrong person); a fairly hapless wannabe mafia lieutenant (who, similarly, has chosen his bedmate unwisely) into the narrative. Jonathan Pryce pops up in a small part as an English gangster; beautifully played but not on screen for long. The star of the film is undoubtedly the Serbian mechanic whose righteous revenge drives the whole story forward to its predictable (but still satisfying) conclusion. City State was produced with miniscule resources, and perhaps that shows in the plotting. It sets several interesting balls rolling but wraps things up a little lazily at the end. The result is that it creates several extremely memorable characters and they tend to overshadow the story. However, the film-makers certainly used what budget they had creatively and effectively - the photography is stylish without being pretentious: it's tautly atmospheric and grimly realistic in its depiction of the several intense violent encounters. The scenes with the SWAT team unofficially exacting revenge are particularly powerful. It's also interesting to view a unromanticised interpretation of modern day Reykjavik - don't pick this up expecting to see sweeping landscapes of Icelandic lava flows and volcanos, or bleakly beautiful screenshots of snow and ice. City State captures the claustrophobic, buttoned-down intensity of Nordic noir, but it does so without employing those standard shots which are becoming clichés...
So not a classic Scandinavian thriller - but definitely a decent evening's entertainment. 7/10
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