After fifteen years' service, Henri Boulanger is made redundant from his job. Shocked, he attempts suicide, but can't go through with it, so he hires a contract killer in a seedy bar to ... See full summary »
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After fifteen years' service, Henri Boulanger is made redundant from his job. Shocked, he attempts suicide, but can't go through with it, so he hires a contract killer in a seedy bar to murder him at some unspecified time in the future. But almost immediately he meets and falls in love with Margaret, a flower-seller, which makes Henri realise that his life has some meaning after all. But when he goes back to the bar to cancel the contract, he finds it has been demolished - and there's no way he can get in touch with the killer... Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
An intelligent crime comedy with an intriguing premise
Over the course of seven movies, Aki Kaurismäki explored various sides of Finnish life and culture, from the inexorably tragic (The Match Factory Girl) to the upright hilarious (Leningrad Cowboys Go America). For his eighth feature film, he decided to try something new: he moved to England, ditched all of his regular actors, cast his all-time idol (New wave star Jean-Pierre Lèaud) in the lead and came up with one of the most brilliant and bizarre comedies of recent years. Well, not that recent, but it's genius, I can assure you.
The story takes place in London, and begins in what seems to be a very boring office (or at least the work is boring). Because of financial difficulties, some employees have to be made redundant. For some other reason, foreigners are the first victims. In other words, Henri Boulanger (Lèaud) is out of the game. Having lost the only thing he really cared for, he thinks there's nothing left for him in life and therefore tries to kill himself. Repeatedly. And with mediocre results (hanging? The rope is tron apart; putting the head in an oven? Gas strike all over the city).
This makes Henri even more miserable. So sad, in fact, that he eventually asks a professional assassin (Kenneth Colley) to do the job. While waiting for his final hour to come, he goes to a pub. And there the unexpected happens: he meets a woman (Margi Clarke), rediscovers the joy of living and changes his mind. Pity the killer won't...
In someone else's hands, this film could have been an absurd, grotesque, unrealistic parody of gangster movies. Kaurismäki, however, keeps it simple and believable, largely thanks to the controlled performances: Colley stays cold and unaffected throughout the whole film, even when he's coughing blood, while Léaud never abandons his everyman role, doing nothing more than occasionally raise an eyebrow when things take unpredicted turns.
The film is almost perfect, weren't it for one factor: Margi Clarke. With all the talented British actresses available, Kaurismäki had to pick an unknown with no charm and a dreadful accent. This slight casting mistake prevents I Hired a Contract Killer from being an undisputed masterwork, but like all the other movies on Kaurismäki's CV, it's still worth your attention.
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