QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
The director of Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2020) returns with yet another very dirty and twisted film. The major difference is that his new film has very little focus on the emotional arc of the characters, and instead it wholeheartedly embraces silliness. The outcome is a colourful, loud and boisterous movie without many restraints and inhibitions. A wild cinematic ride. Sometimes a little too wild even.
Marjaleena, her son Livi and their friend Mikko devote every single hour of every single day to binge drinking somewhere along the Spanish Costa del Sol (the town of Torremuelle is briefly mentioned). Marjaleena ended second in the Miss Finland contest two decades earlier. Now she is scarcely the personification of beauty: fat, wrinkly, the heavy makeup, tawdry clothing and jewelry doing little to improve her looks. She manages a bar ironically called Bella (Spanish for “the beautiful woman”), ensuring that there is no shortage of booze for trio. Marjaleena’s ex-husband Worm (who also happens to be Livi’s estranged father) is released from a long prison sentence. His crime was inserting a bottle into one of Marjaleena’s orifices and then breaking it. In fact, bottles – wine, beer, whisky, you name it – are conspicuous in this alcohol-fuelled tale of the absurd.
While we don’t see Worm’s character, the consequences of his actions are immediately felt by the three alkies. They are left homeless and hellbent on revenge. They break into Worm’s vast mansion and take his Estonian transgender lover Ninja (pronounced “Nynya”) hostage, demanding a large ransom. Worm and Ninja were prison cellmates who fell in love. Countless twists will then lead to car pursues, a wild goose chase for a large sum of money, and multiples deaths. The multi-threaded and at times barely coherent plot also involves the Albania mafias and numerous Finnish characters who have inexplicably ended up in Spain.
What starts out as a semi-slapstick comedy (due to their high degree of intoxication, the protagonists are constantly falling and hitting each other) gradually morphs into a super violent crime caper. There are extensive torture scenes involving a drill, epoxy super glue, scalping and force-feeding magic mushrooms. In the final sequence, it feels like the director is trying to veer into Tarantino territory. Sadly, he does not succeed. Instead, the violence feel gratuitous and pointless. The ending is overambitious and somewhat irritating.
Another problem with the film is that one of the characters is so caricatural that it becomes a little offensive. Ninja is a transgender person who failed to transition into womanhood because the jail refused to support her operation. This is probably the worst trans representation in film since Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991). Ninja looks like Billy Corgan with eyeliner. And trans people don’t talk in such a ridiculously high-pitched voice. Ninja is plain painful to listen. Hardly a favour to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society.
On the other hand, the very upbeat soundtrack deserves s special mention. It includes some super cheesy Finnish Schlager hits as well as a hint of Spanish and even Arabic music (the iconic Darla Dirladada song).
Hit Big has just premiered in the Official Competition of the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.