So far, though, no-one can touch the Scandinavians when it comes to taking noir from the page to the cinema screen. After the box-office success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (David Fincher's US remake of the first in the series has made $232 million worldwide) and Jo Nesbo's Headhunters, comes Jackpot, the latest red-hot export from the chillier north.
Directed by Magnus Martens from a story by Nesbo, Jackpot is a crime comedy delivered in 50 shades of black. Set on the border between Norway and Sweden, and centred on four characters who enter the football pools together, it is the kind of caper that delights in seeing how far it can go, then goes a little further just for fun.
In Edinburgh, where the movie had its UK premiere at the city's film festival in June, audiences were delighted to go along for the blood-splattered ride. Such is the allure of Scandi-noir to those tired of Midsomer Murders.
Martens, 39, came to Edinburgh for the premiere and stumbled into the domestic horror that is the capital's transport upheaval. "I understand they're building some tram lines and it's taking forever," he says with a smile. Norwegians (Martens lives just outside Oslo), do a nice line in understatement.
Jackpot, he says, is the kind of film he wanted to make in the 1990s but couldn't because his technical skills and storytelling ability were yet to be honed. For him, the era of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and the Coen brothers' Fargo was a golden age. "In a way those kinds of films have fallen off the horizon, but they gave me the best experiences in the cinema."
After graduating from the London Film School in 1996, Martens made his name in commercials. From ads he went to television comedy, where he still works, and film, making his feature debut in 2003 with United, a comedy about a Norwegian couple obsessed with Manchester United.
He has always had a taste for edgier comedy, especially of the British kind, having grown up watching Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, "all the classics", on Norwegian television. Among his favourite films are A Fish Called Wanda and Withnail & I.
It's harder to do bleaker comedy on television, he says. "All the channels try to mould everything as broad as possible. There's a constant fight to make it darker, more edgy. I think that's more interesting. Comedy is best when some people hate it but some just love it."
Is he happy for Jackpot to divide audiences in such a fashion? "Very happy. I'm just finishing a TV series in Norway and I think that will be the same thing – some people will hate it because it's too crazy, too dark, too mean in a way." Titled Night Shift, the show is about three people working in a petrol station. "Nothing really happens and that's why everything happens."
Keeping things in the Scandinavian family, Night Shift, or Nattskiftet, is based on an Icelandic series. "We had to rewrite everything because the Icelandic have a very strange kind of humour." So now you know.
Jackpot began with Martens approaching a producer with an idea for a bleak crime comedy. "The producer said, 'I like your script but I have something a lot cooler.'" That something cooler turned out to be a story by Jo Nesbo that the writer had always intended for film. "The way he had written it was a combination of a script and a short story."
Martens adapted the tale into a screenplay, working alone but liaising with Nesbo at key moments. "[I] used him as a mentor in a way," says Martens of the best-selling author. "He's a very smart guy." Did Martens make him gasp at how far he had gone? "No," he laughs. "He wanted to go further."
Above all, says Martens, Nesbo understood that when it comes to film, writers and directors have distinct roles. "He's very generous. I think he understands that he needs to back away in order to make the films work as films. Obviously there are things that he fights for, but he picks his fights. Both Headhunters and Jackpot are really a little better for him thinking in those terms."
In total, the shoot for Jackpot took 25 days. With so little time, and a limited budget, Martens and his cast and crew had to be deadly serious about delivering on schedule, but they managed to have fun as well amid the bizarre scenes. "Some of the blood splatter scenes were weird to do."
While it was gratifying to hear the crew laughing on set, he never forgot it was a cinema audience who would be the final arbiters on whether or not he had struck the right tone. "There's a big difference between what you find funny on paper, what you find funny when shooting, and what's actually funny watching it afterwards."
He hadn't fully appreciated the international appetite for Scandi-noir until Jackpot arrived at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. "Then I realised it was kind of going mad."
Scandinavians have always been good at writing about crime and making television dramas, says Martens. A lot of time is spent honing scripts. With this tradition already established, along came a new generation of programme makers and film directors who grew up with American crime drama. American pace plus Scandinavian smarts equal clever tales with lots of satisfying twists.
Though influenced by America, there's a clear advantage in keeping some distance says Martens, in staying true to your Scandinavian roots.
"We're born and bred with American films so we tend to know the genre. But at the same time we are allowed to do things a little bit differently because we don't have any studio bosses or anybody hanging around trying to make everything as slick as possible. We need to show that we can do something special and that we are not afraid of doing things in a stranger way. We're not afraid of going over the top and doing things a little edgier."
He has been approached about a US remake of Jackpot but nothing has been decided yet. Whatever happens, he wouldn't want to helm it, preferring to go on to new projects. He'll be sticking with comedy, even though it can be one of the hardest gigs to play right.
"You never know if it's going to be funny until people are laughing. It's harsh because either people laugh or they don't. I tend to find it's a bit of a science. There are so many tools you know about and try to focus on to make things funny, but there's also this good thing called a gut feeling."
Italian noir has its style, Israeli tales their nuances, Australian dramas their swagger. But for now, it's the gut feeling of the Scandinavians that is still hitting the jackpot at the cinema.
Glasgow Film Theatre, August 10-23; Cameo, Edinburgh, August 16; DCA, Dundee, August 24-30.