2015 was the year when the latest Vares film hit theaters. Sheriffi was directed by Hannu Salonen, who previously have done numerous episodes of the German crime series Tatort, as well as a number of German TV Movies. Vares: Sheriffi is one of his few Finnish language films, despite his origin, but it doesn’t matter. This is the movie where everything is blown completely out of proportion – a return to the style of the first two Vares films, with obvious influences from early Tarantino and Guy Richie. There’s more in the mix, though.
The introduction and a number of dream sequences related to it, are clearly horror movie inspired. A gruesome and bizarre murder has taken place, and Vares discovers the mutilated bodies. As the film begins in earnest, a year has passed, and the case is still unsolved. All Vares and the police know is the nom de guerre of the killer: Sheriffi (The Sheriff, duh). Things turn out to be far more complicated than anyone could have expected, except anyone who’s seen any of the other Vares films, that is. As it turns out, there are many people who are just as eager as the law to find out who this Sheriff is, and what is behind his grotesque act of butchery.
In Sheriffi, the colors, the style of filming, the music – all these things are far more stylized, almost music video like, than in any of the earlier Vares movies. Kyypakkaus, Vares’ petty criminal friend, is back as usual, but this time he’s advanced in the criminal ranks to some kind of mid-size player. Vares is slightly more like an 80s action hero than a Scandinavian crime drama protagonist, and his sexual and alcoholic exploits are somewhat less realistic and more far out. Not in a bad way, but in a very different way.
The world of organized crime plays a big part in Sheriffi, though it is a world with very little connection to anything likely to exist in Finland. Instead, we meet it in the form of a gang of mafia bosses straight out of a comic book. A drunken playboy, a stereotypical Finnish farmer, a bearded kingpin reminiscent of one of the underbosses in Mel Gibson’s Payback… Once again, foreign influences have invaded Finland, but in a much more amusing and bizarre fashion than in the first Vares movie with Antti Reini in the lead. There’s no Swedish-Danish social consciousness here – only pure, fictional crime romanticism, as Vares is hired by almost everyone in the film to investigate one and the same case. Who is “The Sheriff”, and can he be stopped?
If we are very unlucky, Sheriffi will be the last movie in the Vares saga, and in either case, it is the last entry in our retrospective. Can’t retrospect into the future. It is a worthy finale, which ties up several loose ends – and once again, it is the fulfillment of the promises made in Yksityisetsivä and V2. It is sillier than perhaps any of the other films, compensating with the slightly out of place horror/jump scare scenes, but it is also slicker and by far better looking. Only Kaidan tien kulkijat looks better, but then that film has other issues. Regardless, it would be extremely interesting to see where this director, or perhaps a new one, would take the series, if only enough crazy Finnish investors were ready to keep the Jussi Vares flame alight.
While we pray to the sorcerers and warriors of the most holy Kalevala to grant us but one, or possible five, more Vares films, Archaic Triad is saddened, yet proud, to declare our nine part Vares retrospective – Finnished.