Film review: Strul [Framed] (1988), directed by Jonas Frick
tl;dr: Still holds up.
Last year (or whenever it was) Netflix acquired the rights to a crapton of Swedish films, a lot of them absolute classics I remember fondly. One of these films happens to be comedy thriller Strul, or Framed in English. I haven’t seen it for probably 20 years now.
Charismatic high school chemistry teacher Conny (Björn Skifs) is working on a new plant fertiliser at home when his apartment is raided by the police and he’s arrested for narcotics manufacturing. His lawyer (Allan Svensson) tells him to make the best of being put in prison, but doesn’t seem too interested in helping him clear his name. On the inside he first stumbles on a hidden way out and then stumbles on the gang (Johan Ulveson, Magnus Nilsson, Michael Druker) who are planning to use it for a heist, aided and abetted by a corrupt guard (Gino Samil). They already have the perfect alibi: if they’re locked up working in the prison laundry room, they can’t possibly have committed a crime a crime on the outside.
Can Conny pretend to go along with the heist plans in order to find out who framed him, and clear his name? It gets even more complicated when Susanne (Gunnel Fred), the woman he accidentally met on one of the recon missions, turns out to be more than just a struggling artist.
Also starring Kåre Sigurdson and Stefan Sauk as the two criminal masterminds behind it all, and Hans Rosenfeldt as Glenn the enforcer.
Björn Skifs isn’t just a singer (you know the “ooga-chacka” song? Hooked On A Feeling? That’s him. Yes, really!) but also a terrific comic actor, who starred in a string of films and TV-series back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Whether he’s trying to bullshit Susanne by calling himself the spectacularly unsexy alias “Rutger Jönåker”, sabotaging the heist without looking like he’s actively sabotaging it, pedalling away from goons in fancy cars, or accidentally breaking classroom windows while entertaining teenagers with minor explosives, he shines. Considering he also co-wrote the script that’s perhaps not entirely surprising either. Genuinely funny guy.
I like how Susanne isn’t just some damsel in distress. While she ends up in some distressing situations (one in particular), she gets herself out of them and keeps going, but considering she’s [REDACTED], anything else would be strange. She’s fab. Gunnel Fred might be recognised as Siv in Midsommar (which I haven’t seen), or most recently as grandma Stulia in En hederlig jul med Knyckertz, the 2021 Swedish TV advent calendar (which was delightful). I thought she looked familiar!
The film is definitely of its time – the aesthetics are undoubtedly Eighties, and they have almost gone for a sci-fi approach to the hospital scenes. How does Strul (the title loosely means “a messy/complicated situation”) match up with my nostalgia-clouded memories of it? It’s still a decent comedy thriller, but honestly? It’s not as funny as I remembered it. Johan Ulveson is never not going to be funny, let’s face it, but the rest of the gang? There are some funny lines and situations, but the action bits stand on their own, the comedy is the icing on the top.
4 out of 5 terrible renditions of Gullefjun.