Nobody quite expected that the last movie to star Brasse Brännström would be a rape-revenge story in which the beloved children’s TV actor played a pimp, trafficking a 15 year old girl for money.
When Lars Erik “Brasse” Brännström died unexpectedly in August 2014, parts of the childhood of hundreds of thousands of Swedes died too. In the mid 70s, Brasse, Magnus Härenstam and Eva Remaeus were the hosts of Five ants are more than four elephants, a TV series which taught small children about letters, numbers, positions, etc. A bit like Sesame Street in the US. The series later achieved cult status, and while Brasse Brännström moved on to theatre, movies and TV drama (and even an Academy Award nomination for the script to My life as a dog in 1985), he was constantly connected to the Five ants show. For many it was therefore an unexpected move for the kind and gentle actor to accept the role of an elderly pimp in Hot nasty teen, a social drama about sex abuse, human trafficking and men’s exploitation of young women.
The story in the 44 minute short film is quite simple in all its severity. Fanny Ketter plays Destiny, a 15 year old girl who makes a deal with Martin (Brännström). In return for a new iPhone and some money, she’ll join him on a tour of sex. Martin is the hub in a network which he fuels with teen girls, in this case Destiny, who is abused and sexually exploited by various middle-aged and old men (played by Björn Granath, Leif Andrée, Shanti Roney and others). At the same time, Martin is a sweet family man with a wife and a grandchild, and manages to keep Destiny hidden. But the “work” is taking its toll on the girl….
Far from your typical rape-revenge exploitation film, Hot nasty teen is in many ways the kitchen-sink realistic drama you’d expect from mainstream Sweden. Low-key, no nudity or on-screen sex, no graphic violence, and unsettling mostly in an emotional way. Which of course is how it is for thousands of girls who more or less get lured into a web of money, addiction, lies and threats. If you think rape-revenge movies should look like I spit on your grave or The last house on the left, you’re in for something else here. If anything, it’s closer to Let the right one in, which also featured a part about old men abusing young victims, in terms of visual look and atmosphere. That’s not a weakness though, because apart from the fact that the upscale production and the lack of exploitive violence makes it fit for mainstream distribution (it was aired on Swedish public TV ahead of its planned premiere, due to Brännström’s death), it also points to a very important aspect that not all spectacular rape-revenge movies cover. In real life, sexual offenders are often respected people in high positions, such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians – people who command respect by way of their status. People you don’t expect to be sexual predators. In Sweden, former police chief Göran Lindberg is now a convicted serial rapist, in spite of being a consultant and lecturer on equality and ethics. This film’s raison d’être is to remind us of where abuse exists. Martin has a nice house, a sweet wife, children with babies of their own, and a successfull career. His dark side is to make money on the misery of a young girl who traded her wellbeing for an iPhone. This is why the movie is not your typical exploitation film.
Nevertheless, it does follow the classic rape-revenge formula in terms of story. Destiny gets her revenge. And we’re shown just how scarred she is inside. How far she is willing to go. The ending might come as a shock to those mainstream viewers who does not see the film as a variety of an otherwise low-brow genre, but apart from the lack of effects, the movie is no less a genre entry than The whore.
Hot nasty teen is a mainstream, professional production (just pointing this out so nobody thinks it’s a “low budget indie film”) where the actors’ performances are what stands out. Both Brännström and Ketter does an outstanding job. They project both clichés and the more unexpected turns in a nonspectacular way most people can identify with. Martin is not a monstrous predator and Destiny is just as insecure and confused as some teens can be. In particlar, when Martin is faced by his wife and later a police man, he holds his mask up perfectly. This was of course in the script, but to be able to portray it with no sign of insecurity is not always done by lesser actors. As far as this was Brasse’s last movie, it was something to be proud of.
The director, Jens Assur, is an accomplished Swedish director-writer-producer, and also wrote the script for Hot nasty teen. While the script we see on screen is more than adequate, a few things are left out, due to the films’ length. Why did Destiny choose to meet up with Martin in the first place? What made her attracted to selling sex? How did Martin react to Destiny’s revenge? There’s a few holes in the story that would never have held up in a feature movie (a longer version of the film was talked about before Brännström passed away), and they may come across as essential to how you see the story, but on screen little time is wasted, so these shortcomings have to be written off as sacrifices on the altar of time.
It’s no surprise that Swedes makes movies like this. It’s no surprise that rape-revenge comes in realistic kitchen-sink wrapping when the country of origin is Sweden (or any other Scandinavian country – it’s not the first time rape and human trafficking has been the theme of a Nordic movie), so this is by no means an original or different or clever movie. It’s not even an entertaining movie – and why should movies about rape be entertaining? – but it does make you think, and if you want to say something about sexual abuse and organized rape that goes noticed, this is the way to do it in Scandinavia.
Directed by Jens Assur.
Rated 7 of 10.