You know you’re in for something outside of the Hollywood halo when a film starts with the murder of a cat. Yet for all its macabre trappings and PETA-unfriendly imagery Euthanizer is actually quite a sweet, humane film about your run-of-the-mill Finnish pet murderer.
Veijo (Matti Onnismaa) is a euthanizer with a code, far more considerate to his animal “patients” than he is to the sordid group of humans looking for a cut-rate end to their issues. In a poor, rural area he provides a service of compassion, even if his comportment is cold and distant.
Things change when he meets a young nurse (Hannamaija Nikander) who is drawn to his world, fascinated by both the accouterments of Veijo’s work as well as with his moral view on the ending of suffering.
This sweet story mixed with Veijo’s warming disposition, getting beyond his outward misanthropy, is shattered when a local mechanic Petri (Jari Virman) brings his own neurotic fascination with fascism to bear. It’s here the film takes on an even more surreal take, skewering small town small-mindedness as things quickly get out of hand.
Euthanizer plays as both a parable and a kind of neo-Western, providing a bleak but believable look at this rural life. It’s violence with a code, to be sure, and the film does well when it toys with grand questions of life and death even as it dances with pure exploitation. As deep genre cinema it’s an effective blend of ideas and action, twisting audience expectations at many turns and making it tough on audiences to fully settle down on what they may feel about a given character.
Shot in almost documentary fashion, Teemu Nikki’s film feels as cold and austere as the locale, punctuated by key moments of warmth and kindness. In some ways it reminds of a Coen Brothers ensemble, a world of misfits and miscreants that all seem very much of a place, each in their own way making decisions that are outwardly questionable but perfectly in keeping with their character.
A film of violence and values, Euthanizer is a strange beast, providing a film experience completely different than you’d find in mainstream cinema, yet one that borrows heavily from the tropes that it is toying with. It’s a wonderfully local, sardonic take that still speaks to audiences outside its region, providing an experience for brave and discerning audiences not soon forgotten.