Before my screening of Three Wise Men, director Mika Kaurismaki bragged that he made this feature in five shooting days without a real script. Such an accomplishment might be worthy of praise if the results were worthwhile, but the movie that this process has produced has been obviously scarred by its slapdash production history. Flat lighting, sketchy characters, and a seeming unwillingness to edit indulgent sequences are the defining characteristics of Three Wise Men.
Set in Finland over a long Christmas Eve evening, the movie follows three losers as they get together for a round of carousing at the karaoke bar, which seems to be the only place that’s still open. Each of them has just suffered a great disappointment in their personal life, and each of them has reasons to dislike the others, but since misery loves company, they group together. The Christmas carols that waft across the soundtrack early on, point toward their eventual redemption. The only thing for the audience to do while waiting for it to arrive is to endure a series of poorly improvised speeches about the meaning of life and too many terrible renditions of Finnish pop songs. Soon the group swells, until it resembles a zany Nativity scene, and at that point the Christmas miracle arrives , universal reconciliation is achieved, and the audience is finally free to leave.