Liam Neeson may currently hold the crown as cinema’s revenge thriller king, but this week sees the release of a film whose main protagonist could give Neeson’s Bryan Mills a run for his money.

Set amongst the snowy Norwegian mountains, In Order of Disappearance (or ‘Kraftidioten’) sees director Hans Petter Moland team-up with Stellan Skarsgård for the fourth time. Playing recent Citizen of the Year, Nils, his son’s murder soon becomes the catalyst for cold-blooded revenge and a run-in with the Mafia.

We chatted to Moland about his action-packed black comedy, discussing his stylistic choices, the significance of humour amongst the bullets and who would win in a Skarsgård vs. Neeson face-off.

You’ve worked with Stellan Skarsgård on a number of occasions and he also acts as a producer on this film. Was he always your first choice to play Nils?

Yes. We’re good pals and we’ve done so many things together, so I thought this was a good one for him.

How much input did he have regarding his role? Did you create it together, or did you have a very specific character in mind?

We don’t work on the project together before we actually go shoot it, but you know, you have a fairly easy dialogue and whilst we’re shooting, both of us like to be inventive. It takes on a life of its own while we’re working on it.

Revenge thrillers have become incredibly predictable of late, but your film is very refreshing. How did you want to make it stand out from recent generic crime thrillers?

Well obviously it’s a comedy or at least it has a lot of comedy elements to it, and I tried to tell the story in a way according to my temperament and what I like. I was just trying to give it a unique flavour or have my take on this story. But I think, as with most things, it’s trying to tell the story from your point of view as opposed to trying to cater to what you think the audience would like to hear, because they’re two very different things.

What made you want to direct this specific revenge story?

It’s a story that I’ve been playing around with for years. The idea, I mean, it’s a fable, it’s a story about a man who has this idea of himself as somebody who is rooted in the virtues of his society – it feels ingrained to him but it’s never been put to the test. And I guess, unlike for instance Liam Neeson in Taken in which he’s a man who has specific skills and a background that makes him terrifically adept at meeting the challenges at hand, Stellan’s character in this is a rank amateur.

This film is genuinely really very funny in parts, mainly due to Greven (Pål Sverre Hagen). Was it really important to you to have the odd moments of comedy throughout?

Yes, I think one should definitely feel entitled to laugh as much as possible in this film. It’s full of ridiculous and absurd and outlandish stupidity, you know, it’s a collection of stupid men that you’ve never seen before.

Do you think it’s important to have comedy in a film like this?

Yeah, I think you can say things of significance. I’m not saying that I necessarily am in this film, but certainly comedy is not a limitation to saying anything of importance. On the contrary, I think life is full of comedy, even in the most tragic moments. Which obviously this film is full of. I wanted, when I made this film, not to make any sort of distinction between the comedic and the serious, or the suspenseful and the humorous, because sometimes they go hand-in-hand.

Your villain, Greven, is cast to absolute perfection – he’s almost tragicomic. It’s very funny to think that he is a cold-blooded murderer, yet so very strict in his vegan ways. What was the decision behind that?

Well he’s a wonderful actor and I totally agree with you. I mean he feels like he’s somebody who’s slighted and misinterpreted and being harassed, I mean he feels like he’s the victim here you know? And this is a man who transports massive amounts of cocaine into the country. I mean he’s a psychopath and somebody so full of himself but at the same time feeling that he’s possessing all the virtues that a modern man should have. He drives an electric car, he’s a vegan, he’s the nice guy here, he feels. Which is of course, ridiculous. And we had a lot of fun. He came and did a wonderful screen test, audition for it, and I had a lot of fun exploring the character together with Pål Sverre. I think although it was a well-written part and a juicy part and very exciting for an actor to play, I think he contributed very generously.

Each time somebody dies, their name is shown with a cross. Can you explain the reasoning behind this?

Well, you know, like you pointed out, revenge stories or violence in film is ridiculously common, so we don’t even think of people dying, we don’t think of them as human beings leaving this Earth. So I thought, perhaps it would be a nice idea to make a point of it every time it happened. And of course, the body count, there’s a duality to it. There are twenty-one people who depart during the course of the film, but it’s also such a ridiculous count that I think people can’t help themselves but laugh. I mean, most of the times I’ve seen people laugh and they should laugh. Although they’re bad people most of them, they’re still human beings, they’re fellow men who move on.

Your film works perfectly against its snowy setting. Do you think the story would have worked as well elsewhere? For example, in a built up area of Norway?

To be honest I think the setting is very important for the film. I think the vast wilderness, this snowy desert where he meticulously ploughs a little strip of civility through eternity in many ways can be symbolic for what a good human being should be doing. We should try and make a little bit of a path of goodness behind us as opposed to devastation. Now, obviously he departs from that task and his mission in life and to grave consequence, so that’s what the film is about. And I think it’s much harder to tell that story if there’s a lot of noise, a lot of contemporary noise around. Circumstances allow for that sort of light stylisation.

And finally, who do you think would win in a fight between Liam Neeson from Taken and Nils?

I think that they’re two pussycats, both of them, so neither. They’re two peaceful, private people I’m sure! But if you asked me about the characters, I think Nils would win hands down because he has the bigger machinery.

In Order of Disappearance is released in UK cinemas tomorrow. Check out our review here.