On the one hand, I’m more than happy to see the characters of Bordertown one more time. On the other, a ninety-minute film feels rather slight and truncated for such a rich, intense Nordic noir series. Either way, Bordertown: The Mural Murders (2021) is the sequel we got, and it’s worth a watch for fans of the series.
In the fallout of a traumatic career as a homicide detective, Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen) has checked into an institution to finally cope with his psychological issues. He’s lured out of retirement by his old friend Heikkinen (Johan Storgård), a Helsinki detective who catches a grizzly case: an artist painting graffiti murals with the drained blood of his victims. Sorjonen has no interest in resuming his career, convinced that his attempts to fight evil have merely spawned more of it, jeopardizing everyone he loves. But this particular case has personal connections: the murderer may have been inspired by Sorjonen’s serial-killer nemesis Lasse Massalo (Sampo Sarkola), and one of the potential victims could end up being Katia Jaakola (Lenita Susi), the daughter of his partner, a steely former FSB agent Lena (Anu Sinisalo). It’s enough to stir Sorjonen from his self-imposed confinement and put his remarkable skills to the test one more time.
Bordertown: The Mural Murders isn’t likely to win new converts to this universe, but it’s an enjoyable bonus outing for series fans, bringing back all the key players – including Kari’s bright young daughter Janina (Olivia Ainali) – for one more case. As usual, the key ingredient is Virtanen, who slides back into Sorjonen’s peculiar shoes effortlessly, and the story enables just enough touching collaboration and connection between Sorjonen and Lena to remind us why they’re such a memorable partnership. There’s also a thoughtful and well executed theme propelling the intricacies of the mystery, suggesting an evolution to Sorjonen’s character that might be worth exploring further. Alas, the short run-time makes everything feel rushed, even as the show retains its stately Scandinavian pacing, making the whole affair feel too fast and too slow simultaneously. A listless soundtrack contributes to an overly languorous atmosphere. Ultimately, then, this return to the dark underworld of Finland isn’t a home run, but as a fan of the series I was happy to spend time with it.