'Heavy Trip' ('Hevi Reissu'): Film Review

Wildly, joyfully, madly screeching.

The hometown heavy metal band Impaled Rektum grabs its chance at greatness and heads from Finland to a concert in Norway in a spoof written and directed by first-timers Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren.

For that segment of the audience who find nothing more heavenly than to split their eardrums to the discordant blast of heavy metal, the wacky Finnish comedy Heavy Trip does not disappoint. Part let's-get-it-together band saga and part road movie, the story arc is awfully familiar, but that doesn't stop it being a rollicking romp.

True raucous music played by strung-out Scandi dudes, Vikings and corpse-stealing may not be everyone's cup of tea. But this first feature, co-directed with joyful enthusiasm by Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren, packs a lot of fun and will be especially embraced by the horns-in-the-air set. It bowed at SXSW, followed by a gig at Norway's iconic extreme Inferno Metal Festival.

If there's a lot of good humor to be found in heavy metal to begin with, this band — dubbed Impaled Rektum, to its members' general satisfaction — takes it to the higher octave of an affectionate spoof. In a picture-postcard little town in the quiet Finnish countryside, four boys slog at routine jobs but indulge their passion for metal whenever they can. Turo (Johannes Holopainen, playing at the other extreme from his role in Unknown Soldier) is the band's frontman; his day job is being a distracted orderly in a mental institution, where he cleans up messes. He swallows his resentment at the townies' jibes over his long, straight hair and pours out his fury to the mic in endless screams.

Drummer Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen) is the soul of the band and a crazy coot willing to try anything. When he suggests they've done enough rehearsing and it's time to spread their wings in front of an audience, the others are taken aback. For one thing, they've been playing covers and don't have a single song of their own. Every time the guitarist Lotvonen (Samuli Jaski) proposes a riff, the hyper-knowledgeable bassist deflates him by naming the source he's unconsciously imitating.

Things finally come together when Turo pays a visit to the guitarist, who works at his dad's reindeer slaughterhouse. The high-pitched shriek of the electric knife cutting a carcass in two provides the inspiration for the band's first tune. Just in time: A Norwegian concert promoter in a black cowboy hat turns up looking for reindeer blood for a big metal event, and despite a small misunderstanding, takes the boys' one promo CD home with him.

Meanwhile, Turo is looking for the courage to ask out the pretty florist Miia (Minka Kuustonen). She looks willing enough, but her father is the town's redneck sheriff who hates all things metallic and is itching for an excuse to throw the lot of them in jail. Eventually, of course, they provide him with the excuse. And Miia seems to be captured by a nasty crooner named Jouni, who despises everything the metalists stand for.

In the final third of the film, the boys follow their dream to take part in a big Norwegian heavy metal concert. They take off in a stolen van, a coffin roped to the top (one of them has had to be replaced) and speed toward the border of Sweden, radio blaring. There they meet armed opposition in the form of a bored female colonel who has been alerted that a group of terrorists is approaching in a van. This sets off an unexpected, well-executed action scene that leads to the ever-madder finale. And a good time is had by all.

Production company: Making Movies Oy
Cast: Johannes Holopainen, Torstein Bjorklund, Antti Heikkinen, Ville Hilska, Samuli Jaskio, Minka Kuustonen, Kai Lehtinen
Directors: Juuso Laatio, Jukka Vidgren
Screenwriters: Juuso Laatio, Aleksi Puranen, Jari Olavi Rantala, Jukka Vidgren
Producers: Kaarle Aho, Kai Nordberg
Executive producers: Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Politowski, Bastien Sirodot
Director of photography: Harri Raty
Production designer: Juha-Matti Toppinen
Costume designer: Karoliina Koiso-Kanttila
Editor: Kimmo Taavila
Music: Lauri Porra
Casting: Minna Sorvoja
Venue: Cannes Film Market
Sales: Level K

92 minutes