Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Clint Morris at October Coast PR, as well as Uncork’d Entertainment for allowing me early access to an online screener of the Finnish, Crime/Drama film “Euthanizer”, Written and Directed by Teemu Nikki. Euthanizer follows Veijo (played by Matti Onnismaa), a town leper and middle-aged man who euthanatizes sick, dying and abused animals. Veijo mistakenly crosses a group of white fascists, one of them being down and desperate garage worker, Petri (played by Jari Virman) who takes an extreme disliking to him. Veijo attempts to balance a budding carnal connection with his father’s nurse, Lotta (Hannahmaija Nikander) and his desire to see justice served to those who have done wrong. The film also stars Heikki Nousiainen, Pihla Penttinen, Jouko Puolanto and Alina Tomnikov.
Europeans tend to have a knack for making high quality crime films, Morten Tyldum’s “Headhunters” and Magnus Marten’s “Jackpot” (both Norwegian) are just two examples. Nikki’s, Euthanizer isn’t quite in that calibre, but it’s no exception either. He’s constructed an interesting screenplay, at the core of it a man ultimately looking to balance the scales of good and bad while seeking redemption of his own. Experienced DP, Sari Aaltonen presents us with some really clean and effective cinematography. All the shots are nicely framed, and the audio track is clear with correct English subtitles hard-coded too. The music is a wonderful mix of identifiable European classical score and energetic synth. The bulk of the drama is driven by deep cello notes and sweeping violin, but when Veijo’s intensity rises so to does the pumping synthesiser. Euthanizer is extremely well acted right across the board, and to some degree that makes up for several of Nikki’s thin character arcs. The film is carried strongly by Onnismaa, with Veijo being a rather complex character with conflicting customs. Jari is especially good as Petri, the feeble and gullible follower whose controlled by jealousy and rage and who doesn’t possess a thought of his own. Nikander completes the primary cast, playing Lotta, a nurse who occupies some childlike qualities and seems uncertain of her place in the world but feels drawn to the euthanizer. Teemu’s film has something to say about the virtuous nature of animals and the loyalty of dogs in particular. Much like our children, they’re almost always shaped by their environment and the behaviour of others. They don’t choose us, we choose them, and sadly they often suffer through no fault of their own. Veijo’s modus operandi is a simple one, do to others as you would have them do to you. It’s a great approach on how to live your life and his methods are understandable. Believing that if you choose to punish you get punished, an eye for an eye if you will.
While I saw the end of Euthanizer befitting, it does feel somewhat rushed. The result quite opposite in the opening two acts where the pacing is a little sluggish. I found the color grading rather dreary as well, though I suppose it does complement the downbeat content revolving around animal abuse. In the lead up to Veijo’s confrontation with Petri and his leaders, the foursome proceed to sing a karaoke number in what felt like real-time, while a montage of Veijo burying an animal plays out. It’s a bizarre and jarring tonal shift that took me out of the moment. It’s all in the title, but Euthanizer displays some pretty contentious material regarding these characters treatment of animals. That said, nothing is presented simply for shock value, nor does any of the violence really appear on-screen. Dog lovers (like myself) aren’t going to enjoy hearing the whimpers of these innocent animals though, and it does make you wonder how the film makers got them to react that way. I like to think it’s just a pre-recorded sound introduced in post production, but the animals depicted do appear to show at least some fear, and that’s never a good thing. One particular character in, Ojala (Penttinen) another nurse that Veijo knows, a different nurse, has a rather misleading character arc. I felt like she might have been a blood relative to Veijo, perhaps she was his daughter. He certainly treated her that way in regard to his judgements of her. If they were related the film could’ve benefited from an extra scene to highlight that. If not, I guess I just read it wrong, though I don’t think she has a place in the film otherwise. Throughout Euthanizer, Veijo makes it a point to only serve out equal measures of punishment when he sees fit, even regarding his own wrong doings. Although the character then challenges his own philosophy when he almost takes an erotic encounter with Lotta beyond the point of no return, yet doesn’t request she punish him to the same extent, like he later does Ojala.
Teemu Nikki’s, Euthanizer is my first Finnish film experience and the script was a fresh and intriguing one. I can sort of liken Onnismaa’s character to Tom Hardy’s softly spoken and mysterious loner in the underrated 2014 film, “The Drop”, but can’t think of a film like this one. The camera work is solid, the audio track is sharp and the multi faceted score really elevates the film. Each of the performances were great, Virman reminding me a lot of fellow actor, Andrew Howard with that ability to chew the scenery. Veijo is such an interesting character. I enjoyed the personal layer added by Teemu, and the characters underlining motive behind the way he conducted himself. The film heads in a dark but ultimately satisfying direction. There’s a few pacing issues with the first two acts, in addition to a rushed showdown between the pair. The musical number just feels awkward and there’s some script specifics that go against Veijo’s previously established rules. The characters could have used a little more fleshing out and the animal deaths don’t make for the easiest viewing. They’re bound to anger or even turn off some viewers completely. Please try to take the film for what it is. I give Nikki plenty of credit for his willingness to shine a light on something that has gone unpunished for too long. Thankfully our judicial system has begun to wake up to the atrocities being committed against animals and have now made this kind of treatment of them an offence criminally punishable by law. So put away your guns and hammers people and leave it to the law. Be sure to check out the trailer below! Euthanizer is a very well made film and it’ll be released August 7th on VOD (video on demand).
My rating for “Euthanizer” is 6.5/10