Finland has never had any significant gangster legends. We had our own Prohibition and we had criminals smuggling booze over the borders, but they never really made it into the legends around here. Nor did we have any Wild West outlaws or gunslingers. Instead, we had puukkojunkkarit (knife-rebels, though it's a rough translation), who were people living in the Western Finland in the 19th century. They came from all roads of life and their basic modus operandi was to crash weddings, cause general distress in the countryside and to rule through violence and their skills with their knives. They weren't well-liked, but they were respected because of their charisma and willingness to rebel against the authorities. And, they made a legend.
That's basically this movie. It's our answer to the gangster and Wild West movies, though it really doesn't paint the puukkojunkkarit in a very favourable light, though it makes them charismatic - Mikko Leppilampi especially is were identifiable as the main boss, Esko Välitalo. But aside from that it's also a rather good drama film with two brothers fighting over their inheritance. It's a movie full of betrayals, mixed feelings, violence, plots, counter-plots, romance and knife-fighting. Emotions are running high throughout the entire film and the actors portray those emotions and feelings rather brilliantly. Very solid casting, in my opinion, if nothing else. The movie looks very nice as well, with special attention being paid to the costumes of the era.
Basically the only fault that I can name is that the plot is nothing new. It goes pretty much the way you suppose it will go and offers very little surprises. It's not dull, really, because even basic stories are entertaining if handled well, but I would have liked even a small twist somewhere. Something that would have broken the mould or even cracked it. But, that's me nitpicking. In the end this is a good example of Finnish historical drama done correctly. I enjoyed it and can recommend it to anyone interested in those kinds of films.
And can I also state that the English translation of the title is ridiculous. JP Siili is no Sergio Leone or even Robert Rodriguez.
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