Sex, Drugs & Taxation (Spies & Glistrup): Toronto Review

Sex, Drugs & Taxation - H 2013
Often-fun corporate saga is both naughty and nerdy.

Christoffer Boe tells the true story of a Danish travel tycoon and his attorney.

TORONTO -- A movie the Tea Party might go nuts for -- if only all of the naked ladies, erect phalluses and other happy hedonism could be expunged -- Christoffer Boe's Sex, Drugs & Taxation is the (mostly?) true story of a fine-print-loving family man who made his company millions by legally maneuvering its tax rate to zero. Things don't go so well for Mogens Glistrup in the end, but the story of his friendship with travel-agency mogul Simon Spies is often good fun; it'll be a bit involved for many arthouse patrons, but those with a taste for droll Danish misbehavior will embrace it.

Few films in recent memory have revolved around a pair of leads this physically unpalatable: Mogens (Nicolas Bro), a tax attorney introduced as "a genius -- or he was fifteen years ago," is rotund with an oily combover; Simon (Pilou Asbaek), who spends most of the film sporting a beard as unstoppable as his libido, is the kind of Lothario one can't believe women actually touch. Both men have pinchy, pudgy faces that make their rise in fortune particularly amusing: David is usually much better looking than Goliath.

After a quick, puzzling 1984 prelude in which Mogens is in jail, we leap back to 1965, the moment when his fetishism of legalese paid off. Boe and co-screenwriter Simon Pasternak drop us right into some corporate maneuvering that takes a while to make sense of, but it's clear the fat man is on to something: By exploiting Section-this and Paragraph-thus-and-such of Spies' contract with a supplier, the travel agent will be able to buy the company it rents planes from for next to nothing. After some reversals that establish Mogens' resentment at being bested by powerful men -- including his nemesis Bergsoe (Jesper Christensen) -- they do just that.

PHOTOS: Toronto 2013 Films

Simon now has the profit margin, but needs to publicize his vacation packages to Mallorca. Having always had a fondness for prostitutes, he decides to make his sexual escapades very public: After renting out a whole bordello and having the owner tip off the press, he lines all its women up naked on the floor, drops his pants and gives each one a go, assembly-line style.

Soon his name is synonymous with vacation fantasies, and the increasingly wealthy man believes his own press. He throws parties that make Hugh Hefner look timid -- at one, he wears nothing but a huge fur coat as he fearlessly enters a cage with a gorilla; the ready-to-attack primate is subdued by the sight of Simon's proud erection.

From there, the only direction to go is psychedelic hermitude: Asbaek has little trouble shifting from the fiendish eyes of early Simon to the stupor of a man paying "doctors" to fill him with narcotics. As his character recedes, Bro's grows more bold: Mogens, who has studiously kept the business going and tax-free in Simon's absence, now takes to the airwaves to argue that anyone can use the same tactics. Saying "to me, paying taxes is immoral," he starts selling shell corporations alongside plane tickets.

Anyone can see where this will lead, and the schemer's inevitable troubles with the law soon lose him his best friend. The fall from grace is spiced up by Mogens' desperate attempt to start a new political party that, if elected, would dismantle every government entity in sight. This nonsense earned more public support than expected -- aren't the Scandinavians supposed to be smarter than we are? -- but that doesn't avert the humiliation Taxation has in store for a hero who felt like an underdog even on top of the world.

Production Companies: AlphaVille Pictures Copenhagen, Nordisk Film Production

Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Nicolas Bro, Jesper Christensen, Trine Pallesen, Kasper Leisner, Jacob Hojlev Jorgensen

Director: Christoffer Boe

Screenwriters: Christoffer Boe, Simon Pasternak

Producers: Tine Grew Pfeiffer, Caroline Schluter

Executive producer: Henrik Zein

Director of photography: Manuel Alberto Claro

Production designer: Thomas Greve

Music: Jonas Struck

Costume designer: Manon Rasmussen

Editor: Peter Brandt

No rating, 115 minutes