Flame & Citron, which recounts the lives of two Danish assassins during World War II, has the extreme misfortune to come on the heels of Paul Veerhoven’s far superior, and equally epic, Black Book. Although Black Book was set in The Netherlands, the two films share a similar feel, and on every level Ole Christian Madsen’s movie comes up short in comparison. Flame & Citron, while watchable enough, lacks Black Book’s technical mastery, fascinating perversity, and gorgeous star. It’s difficult to imagine anyone preferring this film to that (much less preferring it to the towering classic of the resistance genre, Army of Shadows).
Director Madsen has done honorable work here, and has certainly created a movie blessed with great production values, but a dispassionate haze surrounds the project. The themes here, which examine the immorality that becomes rampant in wartime, are too thinly sketched to overcome the fact that this sort of thing has been done countless times before. The set pieces, which showcase the duo’s assassinations, are consistently less inspired than the time devoted to them warrants. Perhaps not surprisingly, given Madsen’s other films, it’s the soap-opera elements that filter into the expository scenes that give the most pleasure. They offer a texture and level of character that gets lost amidst the rest of the movie’s scope.