Mini-Review of “Helsinki Napoli All Night Long”

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Pressefotos / Press photos — Nordische Filmtage Lübeck

First, let’s not confuse our Kaurismakis here. In our house (ok, apartment), we’re huge fans of Aki Kaurismaki (“Leningrad Cowboys Go America”, “Le Havre”) and have seen at least a dozen of his movies. He makes many of them with his older brother, Mika, but here in “Helsinki Napoli All Night Long” we have the unadulterated Mika Kaurismaki in all his glory.

To simply dump the contents of this 1987 send-up of gangster movies onto a page makes it sound kind of dumb. I guess maybe it is. But it’s also funny as hell and incredibly entertaining. The premise is classic 80’s madcap farce with two toughs knocking over West Berlin’s drug kingpin (Sam Fuller, chewing the scenery from the start) and stealing a briefcase full of cash and cocaine.

Energetic, ridiculous, and over the top hilarious, “Helsinki Napoli All Night Long” is in love with cheesy 80’s American movies. The characters may be less than fully fleshed out but they do come alive over the course of this crazy night. Plot? Who cares. There are bad guys stealing from bad guys and then spending the rest of the movie as dead guys riding around in the back of a West Berlin taxi driven by a Finn (Kari Väänänen, a Kaurismaki regular) who is married to an Italian dispatcher whose father, the wino, is babysitting their twins and tween daughter. There are Neapolitans disposing of the stiffs in the time-honored tradition of burying them in concrete and then having to dig them out. There is a brigade of West Berlin taxis that come to the rescue at the end and a Russian sailor determined to make an honest woman of Mara, the prostitute from Lolita’s.

Following all that? Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch pop up in fun little cameos. The score sounds like it was made up of Euro-vision song competition runners up. There is suspense, romance, car chases, roses falling from the sky, and a bottle of grappa that never seems to empty. What’s not to like?

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