It was a news report—a poor farmer kills four policemen—that inspired what all agree, including Aki Kaurismäki, is Finnish cinema’s masterpiece. Eight Deadly Shots is an epic drama, a Zola-esque depiction of life’s complicated reasons, where time and duration become little by little a hypnotic force: the very ordinary seems to float in a strange realm of unknown dimensions. The illegal distilling of moonshine becomes a form of social protest—the last such act for a powerless man, an illusory flame of freedom. Like children, men have retreated into the heart of nature, amidst snowdrifts or in the darkening summer night, forever on the margins of society. Even the production process seems to have had a hypnotic quality for those involved; the film was shot not only by its DP, but sometimes by whoever happened to be around, often director Niskanen himself. He also played the lead role and his portrayal is shattering, a performance so real that it is beyond what is taught in acting school. The film takes an "understand, not judge” approach to a horrific crime and achieves a kind of universal relevance, concrete and humane, combining the psychological, biological and social facts—with a sharp and merciless anthropological edge—a clenched fist.
-Peter von Bagh