Thursday, 27 January 2022

Movie review: Bordertown: Mural Murders (2021)

At the beginning of this wonderful sequel Kari (Ville Vertannen) is in a mental institution that reminded me – with its faded glamour, a relic of a forgotten past resuscitated in the modern day – of the hospital in Tokyo I was put into in 2000 for a similar reason. Kari’s out of the force and is dishevelled with a raggedy beard and uncut hair, but Heikkinen (Johan StorgĂ„rd) brings him onto the case of a murderer who’s been dubbed the “Judge” because he or she kills people listed on social media as unnecessary. The way the crowd cancels people these days on account of their actions or even their words enters the frame of ‘Bordertown’ with its dark glamour.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Kari’s post-crisis docility. In movies and TV shows madness is often portrayed like this, or else it’s a kind of mania. A more realistic representation of mental illness might be harder to find as it’d require specialised knowledge in the scriptwriting stage. Most writers for cinema and TV won’t have the necessary knowledge that’d allow them to understand what something as obscure as delusion looks like, or would look like if you were trying to depict it on film.

Real life behaviour and acting being necessarily different. Kari’s quiet moroseness seems likely but it’s somehow distant from my lived experience. Whereas a person really suffering from this type of debility might be difficult to deal with and irrational at times of stress, Kari seems, when he’s inside the dilapidated hospital with his high ceilings and moulded doors, to be quite comfortable. He’s unfazed by the gruesomeness of the murder that Heikkinen brings to his attention, whereas in real life it would be traumatic for him to be confronted again by scenes – in a photo or relayed via words in a conversation – that would quickly bring back the trauma that’s led to his retirement from the force.

But this is fiction and it doesn’t really matter if it’s not true-to-life. Or does it? A show like ‘Bordertown’ stakes its reputation on its ability to both capture the viewer’s imagination and to offer a type of verisimilitude that daytime soaps, for example, long ago left behind in their quest for ratings. ‘Bordertown’ captured some of the gravitas of soapies in the three seasons that came before the feature-length movie currently being reviewed, and it furthermore trades upon the sense of history that that involved, Kari becoming for the filmmakers a kind of legend, and his sidekick Lena providing a grisly counterpoint to his slow intelligence. Nobody solves crimes like Kari and no-one gets the truth out of a witness or a perpetrator like Lena.

The trick for the filmmakers in this additional feature is to make something both novel and identifiable. I think they’ve one a good job with ‘Mural Murders’ but I wonder if more instalments will get made. It might be time to retire the animal.

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