Priest of Evil Olli Saarela

Priest of Evil Olli Saarela
5
Landings are hard to stick. After a shaky start, Olli Saarela's dramatically titled Priest of Evil overcomes the trappings of the typical serial killer procedural and spastic fits of excessive stylization to deliver a bold take on vigilantism as grief management, only to succumb to infuriating levels of hypocrisy in the final act. While at least semi-pretentious, the chronological hop-scotch and jittery editing the director employ serves a purpose: to draw the viewer into the chaotic mental state and vengeance-driven rut of memory experienced by a police officer dealing with the murder of his daughter. Two years after Timo (Peter Frazen) loses his daughter, the bitter former top cop is called to investigate a series of subway killings. Rendered a rash powder keg by his grief, Timo proves aggressive and reckless in his pursuit of the suspect, thrusting himself into dangerous situations, more concerned with distracting himself with action than getting results. It doesn't help his work or relationship with his wife and younger daughter that his mind is on a secret side-project to track down his eldest child's killer. Thusly narrowed in perspective, the distraught father isn't around to notice the murderer he's supposed to be hunting carefully getting to know his family. Displaying the sort of altruistic hubris that imbues anti-heroes with such romantic appeal, the motivations of this psychopath give the film an iconoclastic sense of moral ambiguity that elevates it above competent thriller status. Disappointingly, it's the further revelations of those motivations that ultimately sink the entire story. The glaring discrepancy between the logic of our killer's initial actions and his indefensible about-face near the conclusion is maddening. Adding to the inconsistencies, the biblical, justice-seeking tale of two men operating on opposing sides of the law running parallel works as a method of thematic contrast, but makes the fragile plot link between them feel more manufactured than intended. While his character gets the short end of the internal logic stick, Sampo Sarkola (who resembles a young Ed Harris) has a subtle intensity that should keep him in high demand. Despite deal-breaking flaws, Priest of Evil is commendable for its thoughtful and dedicated work, along with that of Irina Bjorklund, as Timo's wife, Elisa. Save a trailer, no extras are included. (Shout! Factory)