Bordertown: Mural Murders ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from Bordertown: Mural Murders. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film

🇫🇮 BORDERTOWN: MURAL MURDERS 🇫🇮

Bordertown: Mural Murders aka Sorjonen: Muraalimurhat (2021) is a new Finnish feature crime/drama/mystery film available on Netflix internationally. 1 hr 47 min. Cert 15 U.K.

Premise:

“When the imprisoned serial killer Lasse Maasalo’s face and a text “Let’s make the world a better place” are painted to an underpass with blood, Kari Sorjonen is forced to confront the most difficult case of his career.” IMDb

Cast:

Ville Virtanen as Kari Sorjonen
Anu Sinisalo as Lena Jaakola
Sampo Sarkola as Lasse Maasalo
Johan Storgård as Tuomas Heikkinen
Olivia Ainali as Janina Sorjonen
Lenita Susi as Katia Jaakola
Onni Ahonen as Max Aho
Tomi Alatalo as Timo Lauermaa
Andrei Alén as Therapist Emil Lindross
Kristiina Halttu as Taina Henttunen

English language poster for Bordertown: Mural Murders

Crew:

Writers: Miikko Oukkinen (creator), Antti Pesonen
Director: Juuso Syrjä
Composer: Brian Batz, Kaspar Kaae
Cinematographer: Mika Orasmaa
Editor: Harri Ylönen
Production Designer: Vilja Katramo, Okku Rahikainen
Art Director: Heini Erving
Costume Designer: Anu Pirilä
Make-Up Designer: Eija Hakkarainen
Hair Stylist: Hilkka Stenberg
Sound Designer: Sami Kiiski
Special Effects: Saku Andström
Visual Effects Opening Sequence & Supervisor: Sami Haartemo

English language poster for Bordertown: Mural Murders

Notes:

Bordertown: Mural Murders is the feature film sequel to Bordertown (Sorjonen) the series which has 3 seasons on Netflix. Here is a link to a non-spoiler review of this series:

Bordertown: Netflix ~ Non-Spoiler Review

The Finnish language poster for the film Bordertown: Mural Murders

Review:

It is December and winter here in the U.K. so what could be better than hunkering down in front of the TV with a hot drink and watching a film from a country where winters are considerably colder, Finland? Not only that but a film that would feature some characters I already know so well from Bordertown the series. What would it be like meeting up again with Kari, Lena and more after all this time? Would this film “do it” for me, or not? I was keen to find out while trying to not fall into the “overhyped” trap (we have all done it from time to time).

Well, the great news is that, for me, Bordertown: Mural Murders was a seamless transition to the world of Kari Sorjonen. What was even better news is that the characters did not just pop back up in the story as if they had been stored away in a dark cupboard somewhere since series 3 of Bordertown but rather their stories had moved on.

So Kari is not in exactly the same position as we last saw him, instead, he is in a darker, more disturbing and insular place, both literally and figuratively. Lena too has been off elsewhere doing her “thing” which we are less to believe is FSB-related. Katia is also hidden away due to a foolish action. Kari’s daughter, Janina, is all grown up and about to do her thesis. Meanwhile, Lasse Maasalo (great villain) is the only one who has not moved on, is still incarcerated, still psychopathic and still highly manipulative.

Olivia Ainali as Janina Sorjonen in a scene from Bordertown: Mural Murders

The transition of Kari from where he is at the start of this film (as I said, not a good place) to the end is profound and yet, the trajectory is not an unexpected one. Like Maasalo he too can be very manipulative, the difference being that he dislikes doing it. There are some great comparisons made between Kari, Janina and Maasalo by the latter. You cannot fault him in his arrogance, that’s for sure.

What works extremely well in Bordertown: Mural Murders is that there is a cohesiveness with the original series with the story arc, the characters and their arcs and the whole atmosphere.

We have elements of Kari that are so familiar such as his socks and bare feet, his dividing the floor into grids, his physical ticks and behaviours. This is one heck of a performance by Ville Virtanen, make no mistake, because the starting point is as extreme as we have ever seen him. At one point Lena tells him straight that he is not okay and she is not wrong.

Sampo Sarkola (right) as Maasalo and Ville Virtanen (left) as Kari in a scene from Bordertown: Mural Murders

If I really had to pick out just one scene that stood out for me (there were many) then I would pick the one at the lecture theatre with Janina opposite Maasalo with Kari and Lena in the audience. I have talked about Ville Virtanen’s performance in this film but, my goodness, Sampo Sarkola as Maasalo is outstanding in this. Every time he is on screen he conveys such a palpable level of mesmerising coldness, arrogance, high-functioning manipulation and threat. Maasalo truly believes himself to be the smartest person in the room, anywhere and that ultimately could be his undoing (couldn’t it!)

In some respects, it reminded me of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal (both film and series) with this strange intertwining of their relationship and a switching of who is hunter and who prey.

Sampo Sarkola as Maasalo in a scene from Bordertown: Mural Murders

The Mural Murders themselves are both gory (right from the start with a literally blood-pumping scene) and a perfect vehicle for a further journey with Kari and the others. It ends too with more than one possible journey across a boundary.

I have mentioned the seamless transition and this is achieved not only by the characters and storyline but also the locations, the visuals and the sound, both music and the overall sound design. It establishes a familiarity that works very well.

Ville Virtanen as Kari Sorjonen (right) and Anu Sinisalo as Lena Jaakola (left) in a scene from Bordertown: Mural Murders

I loved both the direction and the cinematography in Bordertown: Mural Murders. For me, the pacing worked really well and kept the story moving forwards. Not once did I glance at the time, which is always a good sign! The aerial shots are outstanding and the other camerawork is highly impressive; more than once I found myself muttering “That is a beautiful shot!”

The whole cast in this film does an excellent job and their task is made so much easier by the writing of the dialogue.

I have been pondering whether this film could still be watched and enjoyed by someone who has never seen the series and have reached the conclusion that it could be. There is definitely enough explanation of characters and previous events to allow access to the uninitiated but you will get far more from it if you have watched the show and are familiar with the characters and previous events. This is a film though and with that go time and development constraints, so a direct comparison with a series with three seasons and 31 episodes is very much ”apples and pears”. I would far rather a feature film than nothing.

To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed Bordertown: Mural Murders. It is an intelligent, well crafted and acted film that engaged me throughout. While I do not anticipate there being another film or series I would be up for watching if there ever was. So I recommend grabbing a hot drink, plonking yourself onto a comfy sofa and taking a virtual journey to a cold, murder-y Finland this winter.

Trailer (no subtitles):

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