Star rating **** Dir: Baltasar Kormákur With: Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson , Atli Rafn Sigurðsson, Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir

Having made an impressive debut with the quirky romantic comedy 101 Reykjavik, Icelandic writer-director Baltasar Kormákur was wooed by Hollywood, from whence he has since returned home to make this very serviceable police procedural and murder mystery. Adapted from the novel by crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason, the complex plot revolves around the investigation of the killing of an old lowlife, which leads world-weary detective Erlendur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) and his team in a long arc back to another crime committed 30 years before.

It's tough stuff, resolutely unsentimental and steeped in Icelandic stoicism. The central plot is grim enough, but add to that a sub-plot involving Erlendur's wayward drug addicted daughter (Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir) and a parallel narrative in which a scientist (Atli Rafn Sigurðsson) grieves over the death of his baby daughter who was born with an incurable genetic disease and we're talking misery. It's redeemed, however, by its engrossing mystery, compelling performances and mordant humour, the most entertaining example of the latter being a chase sequence between a weedy cop and hulking criminal. Iceland's biggest ever home-made hit, Jar City's been seen by a third of the country's total population.