5-Word 365 #212 – Hellsinki

The Olympics are off to a fantastic start down in London – or so I hear – but up here in Edinburgh it is still movie season.


Outstanding crime drama from Finland

A look at the illegal underworld in the Finnish capital from 1966 to 1980 (or thereabouts) as told through the rise and fall of two small-scale bootleggers, Krisu and Tomppa.

With Hellsinki, or Rööperi as it is known in its native Finland, I once again get to experience the filmic joys of having a foreign flatmate. I’m only sorry I waited so long to watch this one. Due to timing constraints, today’s review is another run-and-gun, but this one was actually popping up on Twitter in real time. Exciting, isn’t it? For anyone new to this format (I’ve done a couple like this over the year so far) what you’ll see below are the actual thoughts and opinions that I brainfarted out over the course of the picture.

-Well that’s off to an upbeat start. Comparing Helsinki to the Wild West, then bringing drugs into it.

-Something about the Finnish language, combined with grimy 60s production design, it just seems so right.

-Wow, that was one brutal bathroom beatdown. Poor Jukka.

-How to make money from bootlegging: be the only game in town. Very educational, this.

-The drug dealer has standards and a conscience. This will not end well. Is this shaping up to be a Finnish Goodfellas?

-Bootlegging can buy you some great suits. Krisu is currently rocking the powder-blue tux with frilly shirt.

-“Who stabbed you? Uki?” “I don’t know any Uki” “You were best man at his wedding!” “Oh, that Uki”. Finnish gangsters. Geniuses.

Loving the shirts.

-Some great dark humour in this film, particularly whenever Uki is involved.

-Nothing groundbreakingly original, but it’s told with style by some good actors and director Aleksi Mäkelä

-Unfortunately the flick covers a lot of time so can seem a bit choppy.

-It’s going to be a shame when this inevitably goes to shit. These characters are quite decent, for criminals.

-I really like this score. Remind me to check the name of the composer later.

-I have a horrible feeling this Cracker fella is going to turn out to be a Benny Blanco, from the Bronx.

-At the start I thought this was going to be Krisu’s story, but it’s more about Tom really.

-This is more than a crime film. I like it a lot.

-This is going for the slow degradation instead of the sudden ending. It’s not as funny anymore but still compulsively watchable.

-The End. That was excellent. All these fools making the same old gangster films over and over should definitely check this out.

Benny Blanco from the Bronx, and his backing dancers.

So there you have it. Hellsinki. I suppose it’s not an unreal assumption to say that most of you would be unlikely to watch this picture. Take my word for it though: this is worth hunting down. Probably best known (if at all) to English-speaking audiences as Wistrom, Michael Nyqvist’s henchman in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Samuli Edelmann is fantastic as Tomppa, showing fifteen years of hardship and heartbreak with every look, and he is matched every step by Peter Franzén as his compadre Krisu.

If I had one very slight complaint, it would be that director Aleksi Mäkelä doesn’t put up any date-cards during the film. The story begins in 1966, but other than changing hairstyles and clothes and cars, there is nothing to help pinpoint where in time each part of the story takes place, but to be honest, specifics like that matter less than the actual story itself.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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