Rare Exports is the punch line of a very long joke, one that runs pretty much the whole length of the movie, the payoff coming in the last thirty seconds (or the last five minutes for the particularly savvy). It’s not a knee-slapping-guffaw fall down and-lose-a-spleen kind of punchline, but it will make you chuckle. That is, if you ignore the human (?) trafficking implications.
Rare Exports is one of several recent movies that has drawn a bead directly on Santa Claus (I’m looking at you, Krampus). It’s the story of an archaeological dig gone awry. In a remote part of Finland (which, I do realize, is a repetition of terms), right across the border with Russia, an American team led by an English guy as creepy as what shows up later is busy excavating a burial mound that would have made Godzilla proud. Now, you know what happens when you start messing around with burial mounds, things tend not to stay buried. English guys have been doing it since The Mummy, and they still don’t get it.
Nearby is a village of hardy Finns. There are no other kind of Finn but the hardy (insert Mickey Finn joke here) because these guys are tough. Even the kids are tough, schlepping around snowdrifts with gigantic SAKO and Tikka rifles slung across their shoulders. It is a man’s world. Apparently, only a man’s world; I saw maybe two or three girls and/or women in the area, which makes one wonder where all the kids came from. Perhaps those hardy Finns have some prior experience with human trafficking. Certainly explains the movie’s end.
Anyway, two adorable and hardy Finnish children from the village perform a B&E right through the border fence with Russia (Finns and Russians mixing it up over border issues…naah, never happen) to go see what English guy and his crew are doing up there. The two adorable Finns (well, one’s adorable, the other is a bit of a tool) are hiding behind a pile of crap when English guy announces his intention to fulfill a lifelong dream. The kids don’t understand English so they don’t get to hear what that lifelong dream is. Neither do we. English guy never really gets around to explaining it and how, specifically, he concluded the resolution of said dream involves blowing open a mountain. You presume it from context thusly: somehow English guy has discovered that Santa Claus is buried in the mountain, and he intends to free him.
Noble intentions to be sure, but what’s in the mountain is not your grandpop’s red-cheeked and drinking-a-Coke Santa Claus; it’s more like Krampusy Claus. English guy seems to know this because he hands out a list of safety precautions for his crew which prohibits things like swearing and smoking so please, guys, be good for goodness sake because, you know, Krampusy Claus. Let’s see, a hard hat construction crew throwing around dynamite on top of a freezing mountain, what are the chances of some untoward behavior?
Meanwhile, back in the village, the hardy Finns are a bit miffed by the English guy’s f*ckery and shenanigans, which they blame for driving wolves into the area (Wolves. If only). When they lose $85,000 worth of reindeer (and a VAT of 22%), they decide to grab a hostage.
The fun begins.
Stoves disappear, sacks (but not the potatoes in them), and kids do, too, willy and nilly. Adorable kid orchestrates a military special operation that would make a SEAL go, “Cool!” A guy who you don’t think has the skills does a helluva job piloting a stolen helicopter (what’s with Finns and major felonies?) as thousands of naked grandfathers, armed with shovels and picks, run through the snow (want your kids to behave this Christmas? Show them that scene).
What. A. Hoot.
Some inconsistencies abound. F’rinstance, if the grandfathers can whisk the American crew away in mere seconds, why do they seem to have trouble with the Finns? All that hardiness, I guess. How come Finns, mighty hunters that they are, overlook the human footprints around their slaughtered reindeer? And how is it that the grandfathers can rip stoves and plug-in heaters right out of everyone’s houses and nobody hears a thing?
Ah, who cares. It’s still a hoot, all the way to the punchline. Which is worth the wait, because anytime you see a former Soviet satellite embrace capitalism, cockles of hearts should warm.