Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stuff MX ’17: Samurai Rauni

Rauni Reposaarelainen is sort of like Popeye, if Popeye were a mean Finnish drunk. The hard-drinking head of a provincial Finnish samurai clan bullies just about anyone who crosses his path. He has more enemies than teeth, yet he is still surprised when someone hires a band of ninjas to assassinate him. The Bushido way sort of gets a Scandinavian send-up in Mika Rättö’s Samurai Rauni (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Stuff MX Film Festival.

Reposaarelainen is caught flat-footed by the ninjas’ attack, but he is still too strong and ill-tempered for them to handle. Learning the hit was contracted by the mysterious “Shame Tear,” Reposaarelainen starts visiting all his old enemies, which consist of pretty much everyone he ever knew, who he hasn’t killed yet. However, his investigation will ultimately hit distressingly close to home.

There are several samurai spoofs currently making the festival rounds, but the one really worth waiting for is the mockumentary Top Knot Detective (review coming in two hours). In contrast, Rauni is more about skewering the small town Finnish booboisie, with little apparent affection. Frankly, there is not a lot of hack-and-slash action in Rauni, either played straight or for slapstick laughs. Instead, lead actor-director Rättö revels in Reposaarelainen’s dissolute behavior.

Still, you have to give Rättö credit for looking the part. He is a fierce, wild-eyed, knuckle-dragging presence as Reposaarelainen. Yet, we definitely start to root for the outclassed ninjas rather than cheering for his anti-social antics.

Rauni was adapted from a hipster theater group’s stage production—and its avant-garde roots often show. Despite some stylishly rendered scenes in the third act, it just doesn’t connect emotionally. Nor will it hit international viewers on a mirthful gut-level. Not recommended, Samurai Rauni screens this Saturday (11/18) during Stuff MX, but patrons should check out the inventive Laplace’s Demon instead.