Having appeared in The Bridge, Before We Die and Young Wallander, the Swedish actor Adam Pålsson seems to be the rising star of Scandi noir. His latest appearance on UK screens is Moscow Noir, which begins airing at 11pm on Sunday 13 September and will stream on More4 courtesy of Walter Presents.
It all starts so innocently for the young merchant banker Tom Blixen, played by Pålsson. He wakes up with a hangover and goes to his Turkish bath to sweat it off. Then he heads to work where he’ll try and nail down another deal connecting former Soviet assets in Russia with Western capital via the Swedish bank he works for. But it’s not a great morning for Tom. His old mentor and friend Freddy (Christopher Wagelin) appears at the office and puts Tom off his game. The deal he was chasing goes south and his boss gives him a warning. This is Russia in 1999, the days of the Wild East. He should be making a killing. Well, just wait and see what happens…
Later he runs into Freddy’s wife, Olga (Karolina Gruszka) who is waiting for him outside his apartment. They are in dire straits and need Tom’s help valuing and selling shares Freddy has accumulated in various Russian companies. Tom is reluctant but, as fellow Swede, Freddy taught Tom all he knows about dealing in Russia, so he decides to help out. It might also improve his career prospects.
Most of the shares are junk, but a little research shows that one company may have hidden value. Neftnik had the rights to exploit a large oil field. The field has dried up but there’s a geologist out there who thinks otherwise. Tom tries to visit the oil field, track down the geologist, and find other owners of Neftnik shares. If he can start a bidding war for the company he’ll save his job and put Freddy and Olga back in the black.
However, somebody out there doesn’t want details about Neftnik made public. In fact, they’ll kill to keep the company secret. Is it the Russian mafia, a tracksuit wearing oligarch, a minister of state, or even the Chechens? As the story progresses, Tom becomes a suspect and will even go undercover for the Russian police. But who can he trust?
Moscow Noir has a quickly developing, complex storyline. Shot largely in Lithuania, with some stock footage of Moscow spliced in, it nevertheless achieves the right sort of atmosphere as Blixen prods his way around the dark corners of the former Soviet state and provokes its new dangers. It feels a little like an updated version of Gorky Park, which was filmed in Sweden. It will certainly appeal to fans of Follow the Money too – also about an ambitious young character who pushes business deals to the fringes of legality and encounters corruption and organised crime.
The eight-episode series originally aired in Sweden in 2018 entitled Dirigenten, and was nominated for Best TV Drama and Outstanding Actor (Pålsson) at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival. The dialogue is in English, Swedish and Russian, with subtitles.