THE MAN ON THE ROOF is an engrossing and intelligent crime thriller directed by Bo Widerberg (ELVIRA MADIGAN) based on Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's "Martin Beck" detective novel. The protagonist is a wily Swedish inspector who was previously played by Walter Matthau in THE LAUGHING
While being treated for an illness, Stockholm Police Inspector Nyman (Harald Hamrell) is brutally murdered in his hospital room. During his investigation, Chief Homicide Inspector Martin Beck (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) is told by Detective Kollberg (Sven Wollter) that Nyman and his partner Hult (Carl-Axel Heiknert) were known to be violent and abusive, with several complaints filed against them, including one by a man named Eriksson (Ingvar Hirdwall) whose wife died while in Nyman's custody. After seeing Hult, who denies that he and Nyman had ever beaten any suspects, Beck visits Eriksson's parents and learns that Eriksson cracked up after his wife died, and recently lost custody of his daughter after Nyman wrote a damaging letter to the Child Welfare Board.
Meanwhile, a sniper sets up on the roof of a high building in the city, and begins firing--but only at policemen. Kollberg and his colleague, Detective Larsson (Thomas Hellberg), attempt to capture the sniper but are unsuccessful, as is a cop who's lowered from a helicopter and shot by the sniper, sending the helicopter crashing to the ground. Convinced the sniper is Eriksson, Beck tries to capture him alone, and he too is shot. Kollberg manages to rescue the badly wounded Beck. and, against the orders of Superintendent Malm (Torgny Anderberg), Larsson enlists an armed civilian volunteer (Lennart Nordland) to help him capture the sniper, and they, along with Hult, finally apprehend the sniper, who does indeed turn out to be Eriksson.
With its graphic violence, gritty naturalism, and documentary-like technique, THE MAN ON THE ROOF is about as far from the lyrical soft-focus romantic style of Widerberg's famous ELVIRA MADIGAN (1967) as one could possibly get. MAN also seems like two different films, the first half being an ultra-realistic chronicle of the mundane and often boring daily routine of cops, and the second half (involving the sniper) being a taut thriller that employs frenetic hand-held camerawork, kinetic editing, and expertly filmed aerial shots, culminating in the dazzling set-piece where the helicopter is shot down and crashes as a cop dangles from it on a rope. While the understated method of the first half is sometimes carried to a fanatical extreme, often resulting in tedium, the film's dichotomy of styles is part of its appeal, creating an unglamorous verisimilitude that's diametrically opposed to typical Hollywood crime films, where every scene is filled with shoot-outs and non-stop action heroics.
Despite some lapses in logic (such as the implausible finale where an armed civilian is allowed to help apprehend Eriksson, followed by Larsson inexplicably telling the man that he's in trouble for not having a gun license), the film remains an unusual and superior policier. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1976
- Rating: R
- Review: THE MAN ON THE ROOF is an engrossing and intelligent crime thriller directed by Bo Widerberg (ELVIRA MADIGAN) based on Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's "Martin Beck" detective novel. The protagonist is a wily Swedish inspector who was previously played by Walt… (more)