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Heavy Trip
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by Jay Seaver

"Heavy Metal Hilarity"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Though the "trip" part of the movie only includes a fiercely funny last act, that's no disappointment; this Finnish heavy-metal comedy is pretty much a delight throughout, mostly because our never feels like its characters being both big metalheads and lovable dorks is any sort of conflict that has to be resolved. The filmmakers are well aware that some parts of this type of music (and almost any hobby) are kind of ridiculous even if very serious, but doesn't disrespect it for that.

Turo Moilanen (Johannes Holopainen) and his friends have been playing metal together for ten years, but have never actually gone so far as to actually book a gig and play for anyone else. An orderly at a retirement/rest home by day, his bandmates are Lotvonen (Samuli Jaskio), the guitar player whose father's slaughterhouse provides a fitting, sound-proof practice area; Pasi (Max Ovaska), a librarian and bass player with a perfect memory searching for an original sound; and Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen), the drummer who throws himself so completely into whatever he sets his mind to that he's had to have his heart restarted twice. They're practicing when the organizer of a Norwegian music festival stops in to buy some reindeer meat, giving them his card, and when Mila (Minka Kuustonen) at the flower shop misinterprets this as the boys having landed a spot at the festival, Turo kind of rolls with it, especially since Jouni (Ville Tiihonen) - a used car salesman whose easy-listening band makes him a minor celebrity in town - is also around at the time.

The lie spins out of control, but the filmmakers are smart about this - though it's exposed a little later than perhaps it should be, it also doesn't last so long that the audience ever starts to turn on Turo. Part of it is that Jouni is the type of guy who can get under your skin without being truly evil, while Turo's impulse to impress Mila is initially more subconscious than deliberate, and the lack of ill intent helps a lot. On top of that, there's no denying that it motivates these guys to actually do something rather than be timid. It's the sort of storytelling that looks kind of cliched and not just effortless in a bad way but is actually just smart enough to keep things moving and let the filmmakers hang a lot of funny bits on the framework.

There are a lot of funny bits; too - directors Juuso Laatio & Jukka Vidgren and their co-writers Aleksi Puranen & Jari Olavi Rantala don't let many scenes pass by without at least a bit of deadpan puzzlement over something strange, and build a lot of comedy out of even the most stock characters being stubbornly individual. The fact that a lot of metalheads can be shy, reticent individuals despite having a loud outlet for their angers and frustrations (something initially surprising when you go by appearances) gets a lot of play. Plus, it's got big, ridiculous slapstick, including body fluid jokes that make sense and involve the people involved giving a damn about each other rather than being detached and sadistic, and never sells or what makes one like a character for a cheap laugh.

It's also filled with funny people, playing deadpan with enthusiasm, straight-faced when called for and full of joy otherwise. Johannes Holopainen doesn't seem to do a whole lot that's special as Turo, but he does a nice job of capturing the decency and nervousness that can back him into a lie, as well as getting across the release of getting on stage and scream-singing without seeming like he's repressing something or a psycho. Minka Kuustonen makes a sunny contrast to him visually and temperamentally, a cool and easy charm to go with his nervousness, while Ville Tiihonen smarms well without twirling his mustache. Samuli Jaskio and Max Ovaska make a terrific pairing as well, and there are not really any actors in the ensemble who don't contribute some laughs throughout.

Plus, it bears repeating, that last act is some concentrated hilarity. It's utterly ridiculous in a bigger way than the rest of the film, but it earns that and executes perfectly. After an hour of the film running on small-town situations played broadly, the last half hour of Turo and company road-tripping to the festival gets bigger and more ridiculous every few minutes without the movie ever falling on its face. It's utter madness that might not work if they guys just wanted to play rock and roll, but plowing through all of this with reckless abandon is, in fact, extremely metal, even if everyone is shrieking and freaking out rather than grimacing and screaming defiantly.

Sometimes, it seems, being metal as heck means rolling with the insanity that comes your way. Maybe part of what makes "Heavy Trip" so delightful for some is that you don't expect it to be sweet and funny, but it does that well enough to be a blast even if you can see that coming.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32137&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/05/18 13:20:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2018 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2018 SXSW Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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