A Film a Week - Heavy Trip / Hevi reissu

Some relevant scientific researches have found a co-relation between the strength of some country’s heavy metal scene, its general development and the overall happiness of its people. We can hardly imagine heavy metal as the music of happy people (or the upper classes for that matter), but apparently, if it is possible and socially acceptable for its young adults from blue collar background to channel the negative emotions like fear, angst and the appetite for (self-)destruction through some aggressive guitar-shredding, it means that some country is a happy member of the first world. If we take the Anglo-Saxon countries, Germany and Scandinavia as an example, we can see that the theory stands.

Also, it is worth noting that, contrary to the popular tropes and residuals of moral panic from the past century, metalheads are not necessarily dumb, aggressive kids and/or fanatical animal-sacrificing blood-thirsty Devil-worshippers, but simply people who prefer some kind of music over the others and spot a certain look. Movie-wise, however, the tropes still works, especially in comedies for the fun effect. And when treated in a smart way, which is the case with Jusso Laatio and Jukka Vindgren’s feature debut Heavy Trip, they can generate a lot of laughs without feeling condescending.

It is the story of a (fictional) extreme metal band called Impaled Rectum from a village in the north of Finland and its struggle to success imagined as a performance on a famous Norwegian festival. Before that, they kept rehearsing by playing covers in the basement of the fast guitarist Lotvonen’s (Samuli Jaskio) family business – the reindeer slaughterhouse. The band consists also of the daredevil drummer Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen), the walking metal encyclopedia bassist Pasi (Max Ovaska) who works as a librarian in his daily life and the gentle singer Turo (Johannes Holopainen of Unknown Soldier fame) who has to take the verbal abuse from almost everyone in the village, like the police chief and the local punks, while having a literally shitty job as an orderly in a mental institution. Needless to say, when holding a microphone, he turns into a growling beast. He is the protagonist and our perspective in the story and is also involved in a love triangle sub-plot with his ex-classmate, the beautiful florist Miia (Minka Kuustonen) and his nemesis, a local pop-singer buffoon Jouni Tulkku (Ville Tiihonen).

The description promises a road movie in the likes of The Blues Brothers, only more metal in sound and attitude, but Laatio and Vindgren, together with their co-writers Aleksi Puranen and Jari Olvi Rantala, take some sweet time to get the band on the road trip, while scoring laughs on the home field, putting the characters in some potentially dangerous situations with the rest of the townsfolk. Those set pieces are based on stereotypes and might prove to be even a bit offensive to both sides in the “conflict” (stupid metalheads doing dangerous stuff, sleazy rednecks that change their attitudes towards them when they have a shot to become famous), but here are done with a special warmth in hearts and minds of the writers, even though they are basically milking for laughs at predictable places.

Heavy Trip has some other classics of rock cinema in its DNA, like the early 90’s comedies Airheads and Wayne’s World, but the difference is Laatio and Vindgred are very aware of those films and that they are just playing with them (there is no way that every time the band plays, the look of the film changes towards some music video aesthetics), so they are not trying too hard to look cool while using the familiar tropes to make us laugh while making their characters silly in a likeable way. Not every joke is spot on, but most of them are and we can relate to the characters even though most of them are just rough sketches. The visual identity of the film is also smart, using the natural surroundings to highlight Turo’s loneliness and offering a glimpse into the boring life in Finnish countryside.

Once the road trip starts more than halfway into the film, more outlandish, over the top stuff is about to turn up, and Heavy Trip becomes one really enjoyable fare, no matter if the audience is full of metalheads or not. It is pure fun, nothing more, nothing less.

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