Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Samuel. L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent
Written by: Jalmari Helander
Running Time: 90 mins
Release date: 8th May 2015
Remember, before the days of lycra-wearing superheroes, when action movies were called high concept and usually involved someone completely outnumbered, out-gunned and out of their depth, fighting bad guys and often than not, winning. Well now we have Big Game, a completely bonkers action adventure from Finnish director Jalmari Helander, who gave us the nightmarish Christmas tale, Rare Export.
The President of the United States, travelling on Air Force One, finds the plane under attack. Fleeing for his life, he is ejected into the forest below, where he meets Oskari, a 13 year-old who has been sent to hunt by his father, in order to prove himself a man. Taking the President to his camp, it becomes apparent that the attack wasn’t the end of things and that a terrorist gang want him dead. The President doesn’t have a clue about fighting back and has to rely on his young saviour.
Don’t go into Big Game, thinking that logic and intelligence are going to win the day. They won’t. Instead, this is a film that is full of contrivances, laughably clichéd dialogue and a plot that doesn’t really demand close scrutiny. It’s as if Helander is writing a love letter to all the nonsensical action flicks of the 80’s and 90’s. You can see Cliffhanger here, via Deadly Pursuits and just past Air Force One. At the same time, he throws in the occasional curveball that does surprise.
For instance, instead of making The President a former Marine who hasn’t lost it, this leader is, to be quite honest, a bit of a wimp. He doesn’t have a clue about weapons and his fist fighting skills are meagre to say the least. He relies on Oskari, the resourceful child with his own problems, to take on the baddies. Sent out to become a man by his father, he struggles with his basic weapon of choice, a bow and arrow.
When the set pieces begin, they are bizarre yet oddly enjoyable. We see the two unlikely partners flying under a helicopter in a freezer! (How the freezer gets into the wilderness is the biggest contrivance of all). We have an escape as batty as Bruce Willis’s ejector seat in Die Hard 2 and let’s not even get started with the finale.
The whole thing is done with tongue rammed deep into cheek. So are the performances. Samuel L. Jackson goes from badass to scare cat as the President, although he half delivers his usual catchphrase (a mother******* edited so it could get a 12A in the UK). Young Onni Tommila, who appeared in Helander’s Rare Export, manages to hold his own as Oskari, while Jim Broadbent spends most of the film either eating a sandwich or drinking water (nice character traits).
It’s all done in the spirit of a low-budget B-movie with a love for the now almost forgotten genre. It may not be as good as the films its saluting, and some might find things all to convenient to really enjoy but if you take it as it is, then you will find some pleasure out of the nutty proceedings.