Lucas (Paul Dano), an angel-faced homeless man who sings a lullaby to a stray kitten, might be too kind-hearted to live. Jacques (Brian Cox), an apoplectic prick who owns a Bowery bar, is too mean to die. They are fated to meet — which they do, in a hospital room, Lucas recovering from a suicide attempt, Jacques from his fifth heart attack.
Unwilling to die without passing his dive on to someone who will treat its oddball regulars with the abusive contempt they deserve (you could think of the place as “Cheerless”), Jacques kidnaps the unlikely Lucas and indoctrinates him into his misanthropy and his meticulous brewing of espresso. Inevitably, a woman and a duck intrude to disrupt his plan.
Icelandic writer/director Dagur Kári (Nói) embraces the deadpan, absurdist comedy of Finland’s Aki Kaurismäki and Norway’s Bent Hamer, but in place of the usual laconic antihero, he offers Cox’s bellowing, Beethoven-maned troglodyte. The irony and scatology almost overcome the sentimentality.