Euthanizer Film Review

Euthanizer Film Review
Finns are engaged in far more peculiar forest activities than raking if "Euthanizer" is any indication. While the film is an offbeat and violent revenge fantasy, "Euthanizer" has a philosophical underpinning that makes it strangely effective. The screenwriter Teemu Nikki (who also directed, produced, and edited the film) won Finland's 2018 Jussi Award for Best Script and the screenplay award at Tokyo's 2017 International Film Festival.

Veijo Haukka (Matti Onnismaa) resembles an alternative rocker (think Fred Armisen) more than an angry avenger. What stokes his ire is the mistreatment of animals. While he spends his free time searching for roadkill so he can give the unfortunate animals a decent burial, Veijo also moonlights as a pet euthanizer. This contradictory behavior is explained by Veijo's conviction that death is sometimes preferable to suffering. Veijo lectures owners on the evils of puppy mills and cramped cages before ending the lives of their four-legged friends.

When Petri (Jari Verman), a maladroit Neo-Nazi, presents a perfectly healthy dog for extermination, Veijo finds he is unable to kill. He renames the dog Piki and keeps her as his companion. Petri, who brags to his fellow skinheads that he bludgeoned the dog to death, is mercilessly mocked for his lie. In a horrifying sequence, Petri and his gang take their revenge on Veijo and Piki. Veijo survives and retaliates in kind. "Pain must be balanced" is Veijo's version of the biblical exhortation "an eye for an eye".

Filmmaker Teemu Nikki, although daring, knows there is a limit to what the viewer can tolerate. While Veijo euthanizes canines with a shot to the head, the result is not shown onscreen. Nikki shows Veijo leading the dog to a secluded spot in the forest and aiming his weapon, but then cuts before the moment of death. The sound of the gun is enough to make dog-lovers cringe. Nikki also uses sound to link the suffering of both humans and animals. When Petri suffers the same fate as Piki, the sounds of pain both creatures emit are the same.

The question of pain and suffering, and who has the right to both cause and end it, permeates "Euthanizer" and elevates the film above the typical genre picture. The minimalist soundtrack, composed by Finnish electronic rock band KXP, lends certain scenes an aura of unexpected dignity. Although Teemu Nikki has referred to his film as "Dirty Harry" with animals, I think he has achieved something more.

"Euthanizer" was released in 2017. The film is in Finnish with English subtitles. "Euthanizer" is for mature audiences and is currently streaming on Amazon (no charge for Prime members). I watched the film at my own expense. Review posted on 11/23/2018.

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