Streaming Releases: Euthanizer (2018) Reviewed

Ben reviews the new thriller, Euthanizer. 

Veijo Haukka is a mechanic with a side business in putting suffering pets out of their misery in the dark Finnish drama Euthanizer. He has a deep love and respect for animals, while showing nothing but contempt for their human counterparts. There is not a whole lot of plot to speak of here, which is fine because he is plenty interesting on his own. Unfortunately, the movie surrounds him with other things that detract from his story. I just wanted to watch Veijo live his life, but there were too many distractions.

Veijo is a very complicated person. He truly cares for the animals he is brought, even as he takes pleasure in insulting the people who are bringing them to him. This is perfectly established right at the outset. He is a loner, yet he somehow strikes up a friendship with a woman who is curious about his contradictions. His day-to-day routine and their developing relationship intrigued me. 

Care for a walk in the woods?

Apparently, the filmmakers decided that was not enough. So there is a major subplot about Petri, an insecure mechanic trying to get in with a group of Finnish white nationalists. Petri is not interesting. Though his story intersects with the main one in a big way, it fails to shine any new light on Veijo’s life. All it does is sort of provide Euthanizer with its climax, but there are far better ways to get to the same ending. It puts an unpredictable character on a disappointingly predictable trajectory, wasting a good performance from Matti Onnismaa as the protagonist.

Veijo is such an odd and potentially off-putting creation that Euthanizer really needed an actor who could suggest an inner pain with just a look. Onnismaa definitely does that here. He makes Veijo’s occasionally extreme behavior somewhat understandable. I certainly would not say I liked him, but I was fascinated by him. He is intimidating, rude and maybe even a little sympathetic sometimes. While the film is ultimately unworthy of this performance, I was unable to take my eyes off of him. 

Shhhhhh. I'm trying to help. This way you won't have to see any more
political posts on Facebook. 

Euthanizer has a murky look to it, as though these people act the way they do because there is no joy or happiness in this space. It feels like a place where awful things happen. However, the pace and tone do not entirely fit that description. It is a sad, slow production, with dark undertones, though it never fully tilts its mood to suspense until the end. That is okay except that, despite the story making it clear this is going to have a violent conclusion, there is no tension for the filmmakers to build upon. At times it comes off as two separate stories awkwardly stitched together.

Euthanizer is a character driven drama given enough plot to be a thriller. It ends up feeling like a lot is going on, but nothing is really happening. That causes things to fall apart a bit in the second half. Still, Veijo’s complete disregard for people, strong positive emotions toward animals and his sad walks into the woods with doomed dogs will linger in my memory. He is a great character in a below average movie.

-Ben Pivoz