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Helsinki Napoli All Night Long

Finland/Switzerland/West Germany/Italy 1987
produced by
Christa Saredi, Francis von Buren, Mika Kaurismäki (executive), Andreas Bareiss (executive), Bernhard Stampfer (executive) for Villealfa, Mediactuel, Salinas Filmproduktion, Condor Features, Felix Film, Finnkino, Novafilm, Wiz Music
directed by Mika Kaurismäki
starring Kari Väänänen, Roberta Manfredi, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Margi Clarke, Nino Manfredi, Mélanie Robeson, Samuel Fuller, Eddie Constantine, Sakari Kuosmanen, Harry Baer, Gerry Jochum, Katharina Thalbach, Remo Remotti, Ugo Fangareggi, Carlo Hafzalla, Wim Wenders, Werner Masten, Jim Jarmusch, Shaun Lawton, Victor Salin, Gerry Schilschow, Hans Martin Stier, Silvie Ruehl, Eva Curtis, Eric Lee Johnson, Michael Wassmann, Wolfgang Längsfeld, Lene Ludwig, Jürgen von Alten, Danny Rogers
written by Mika Kaurismäki, Richard Reitinger, music by Jacques Zwart

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Alex (Kari Väänänen), a Finnish native, is a taxidriver in Berlin who works mainly the nightshifts - and since his Italian wife Stella (Roberta Manfredi) works the taxi company's radios, his biggest worries are to keep his father-in-law (Nino Mandredi) away from the alcohol and at home to watch after his baby boys, and to keep his stepdaughter Lilli (Mélanie Robeson) in line. In all, he doesn't have the greatest life, but he's content.

Then one night though, he drives a couple of drugpushers (Harry Baer, Gerry Jochum) to a seedy nightclub - and they pull a stunt, try to raid the place, and then try to escape using him as their getaway car driver. Now that much works out, only that they are shot dead in the process, and suddenly, Alex finds himself with two dead gangsters on the backseat, and a suitcase full of money from the raid. Now that's the good part, the bad part is that the (criminal) boss of the nightclub (Samuel Fuller) and his two henchmen (Eddie Constantine, Sakari Kuosmanen) are suddenly on his trail, and that he manages to shake them time and again is only due to the fact that they are a bit on the incompetent side, while he relies on the help of his working class friends, like dockworker Igor (Jean-Pierre Castaldi) or the weapons-crazy friendly neighbourhood gas station attendant. Still, he has two corpses in his back - which is where dad-in-law with his (possibly fictional) mob connections comes in handy. And that he has been drinking behind Alex's back comes as a blessing this time around, so he doesn't ask too many questions ...

When Alex tells Stella about the money though, she urges him to take it to the police or at least get rid of it - which Alex tries but just can't, the lure is too big!

Meanwhile, the gangsters do get one thing right, Alex's identity, so they kidnap Lilli and his twins - which drives Alex to despair. However, the gangsters are not happy with their hostages, because the twins need constant attention and need to be changed, while Lilli manages to slip away at the first possibility to alarm Alex. Ultimately, the tables are turned, and Alex (who has managed to trade in his cab for a truck) chases the gangsters - and not only him, either but all of Berlin's cabdrivers.

Once the gangsters are cornered, they agree to broker a deal, also because they desperately want to get rid of the twins - and they even get their money back ... but dad-in-law sees to it that they and their car ultimately land in the river.

 

Helsinki Napoli - All Night Long is a likeable genre comedy, likeable especially because it's a really unusual genre movie, starting with its very un-heroic lead characters, it's atypical situations (like gangsters changing diapers), and its very amusing car chases. Now add to this a very relaxed tone, a laconic brand of humour, a very unexcited directorial style (which doesn't mean the film isn't well-paced, because it is) and a great cast - and you're left with a very good movie, no less.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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