Writer/Director Teemu Nikki has crafted a compelling tale of irony and karma revolving around Veijo (Matti Onnismaa), a motorcycle mechanic who offers some grassroots veterinary services on the side.
As it is explained in the film, killing animals is not illegal in Finland and, veterinary bills seem disproportionally high compared to wages, so, when your pet gets poorly, like really poorly, there is an undesirable gap in the market. Armed with a gun for the bigger pets, and a 4-cylinder driven DIY gas chamber for the littler critters, Veijo has rather reluctantly stepped into that niche.
Not that it comes without a cost mind you, Veijo is has a rather extreme moral compass, a compulsive behaviour matched only by his love for the welfare of animals. If you’ve kept an animal caged, expect to experience a snapshot of that scenario, similarly, if you have made an animal suffer, expect to suffer in return.
However unorthodox, the ‘business’ model had been working successfully for Veijo and his local town for some time, until a fateful encounter with Petri, a wannabe white supremist.
As the title ‘Euthanizer’ might suggest, this films tone, themes and stylisation harks back to the revenge/exploitation flicks of yonder. If the plot of the film doesn’t come across as slightly left field, the character choice and dark humour will definitely get your attention. This film’s success comes from its writing and its revisiting themes of karma overshadowing any consideration for traditional morals or correctness.
Each character has flaws in their personas, this film has no good guys and bad guys, everyone has ‘skeletons’ so to speak, so who do you route for? The film has some shocking moments, but the confidence and dedication to preserving the films tone and atmosphere mean that these extreme acts of cruelty and/or exploitation never seem out of place in context of the world that Nikki has crafted for our amusement.
Talking of amusement. This film has a lot of dark humour, if this is your thing (as it is mine), then watch carefully, the comedy is not always given up easily. I don’t know much about Finnish culture, or their media in general, but if Nikki’s writing is anything to go by they seem to have an affinity for irony and cynicism. Even amidst the films darker elements there is often a comment, or action which serves as a source of amusement, even if it is at the expense of a character’s else’s welfare.
Rounding off the neatly written piece is a whirlwind ending which brings together all of the subtler elements of the films purpose and direction, if you missed the cues as to where the film was heading throughout the film, the final act will drag you screaming into its climax, up to speed or otherwise.
The ending is grim, and after spending 80 minutes in a world seemingly devoid of anything positive, it’s a gut-punch for sure.
If there is any criticism to be made I would say that the transition into its final act could have been structured better. In the film’s middle, there are a few pivotal plot developments which don’t share the same tone as the scenes around them and come across a little jarring. Very briefly just before the hour mark, there are scenes which rather ham-fistedly force a change in Veijo’s character which albeit necessary for the story overall but didn’t feel quite as organic as they perhaps could have had we taken a little more time to explore the more unhinged aspects of his mindset in other parts of the story.
I don’t say it very often, but here, this film may have benefited from being just a little longer to better embed these characteristics prior to their reveal.
That’s said, overall, ‘Euthanizer’ is one of the summers hidden gems and I urge you to check it out. Its not your typical genre film, but if you are a fan of exploitation flicks in general or interested in movies which explore questions of morality, equilibrium and karma, then this could well find itself into your favourite’s pile.