A Patriotic Man has a tagline that seems straight out of a Batman movie: “Every nation gets the heroes it deserves.” It’s very dramatic, and very cool, but just because a film has a cool tagline and premise doesn’t mean the whole package will turn out to be cool.
Directed by Arto Halonen, A Patriotic Man is an exploration of doping in sport, based (apparently) on true events. What makes the film interesting is that it’s not about drugs as one might expect, but about blood doping: the almost vampiric act of pumping athletes full of another person’s blood to get them rip-roaring and ready for their event.
Toivo (Martti Suosalo) is down-on-his-luck, out of work and depressed, until he discovers he has some truly incredible fuel in his veins. With O-type blood high in red blood cells, his most precious bodily fluid becomes a secret weapon for the failing Finnish ski team. Toivo must deal with the moral dilemma of using his blood for doping, and decide if patriotism to his country is worth doing something under-handed and, let’s face it, slightly creepy.
A Patriotic Man is hardly adventurous, preferring to stick to well-known drama conventions and realistic camera-work and editing completely free of frills. There’s a bit of slow-motion here and there, and some nice, wide camera angles but, other than that, A Patriotic Man is basically what you’d expect of a sporting drama based on true events.
The most disappointing aspect of the film is definitely the soundtrack, which is full of weedy little keyboard tracks and seventies pop-ballads. It basically makes the whole film feel like a day-time soap rather than an intriguing feature film.
The main plot points (a secret affair and a dangerous deal) are also fairly soapy and over-played, and the main villain, the ruthless and conniving captain of the team, is almost comical. All this combines to make A Patriotic Man feel a bit cheap and flimsy, even though the general premise behind it is totally engrossing.
A Patriotic Man is a quirky story presented in a totally non-quirky way. Though it does feature some interesting characters, a winter wonderland setting and a rather unique romance, it ultimately falls flat on its face in the snow.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 10: 4
- YouTube trailer: https://youtu.be/i7bdbvBTfSE