Friday, 9 October 2015

Big Game

Who doesn’t love an over-the-top action flick? Back in the 1980s and 90s, you couldn’t get away from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal and all that crowd. It seems like the majority of films from the period just consisted of those guys running around, twatting bad guys. And audiences loved it. But nowadays, save for cheaply made straight-to-DVD releases, it’s something of a dead genre. Action films these days tend to be all cars cars cars and more cars with the ol’ beat-em-up and shoot-em-up films fading away, ignoring the annual Liam Neeson attempt. But all hope is not lost. Some old school action still gets through, like the recent John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road. And now, Big Game.

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Big Game is the new film from writer-director Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale) and the most expensive Finnish film ever made, with a budget of €8.5 million. In the forest on a hunting quest to prove his maturity to his family and friends, young Oskari (Onni Tommila) is alone in the woods trying to track a deer. But he finds a much greater prize – the President of the United States, William Allan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson). You’re probably wondering what the President is doing in the wilderness of Finland. Well, the plot is all a bit ridiculous – and that is why it works. After Air Force One is shot down by terrorists, the President is hunted like wild game by the crazy psychopaths with rocket launchers, machine guns and bombs. He must team up with Oskari to survive, and maybe Oskari will finally prove himself to his family too! Hooray! 

Samuel L. Jackson starts off somewhat against type, a cowardly man lost in the wilderness and unable to defend himself. You might wonder what he’s doing in the role, as we know him as such a bad-ass mo’fo’. But as the film goes on and he gets his crowd-pleasing motherf***er moment, you’ll understand why he was cast. He’s perfect as the President of the United States. Move over, Obama. But the film belongs to Onni Tommila who delivers a downright awesome performance as Oskari, delivering the sort of badassery you wish you had when you were 13 years old – in Finnish and English. Ah, bilingual badassery. Gotta love it.

Big Game has a surprisingly good supporting cast, too. I was shocked and delighted to see Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber, Ted Levine and Ray Stevenson all show up in this crazy Finnish romp. And the action sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in a while. Granted, this isn’t a genre I watch a huge amount of – but the gunfights, chases and explosions were…y’know what, I’m not going to review the action sequences. I’m just going to say shit goes boom and it’s awesome.

At such a short length and with a lack of any real depth or character development, there isn’t a huge amount to say about Big Game. There’s not much to analyse nor discuss. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. I’d heard very mixed reviews and something about it just looked daft, over-the-top and silly. It is daft. It is over-the-top and silly. But it’s bloody brilliant. Big Game is a wonderful throwback to the ridiculous ultra-violent action adventure films of the 1980s, and it feels like something of a love letter to them. The pacing, the silly and somewhat high-concept plot, the action, the music – everything felt plucked straight outta the 80s. Even the narrative feels very subtly self-aware and tongue-in-cheek in its ridiculousness. If you take Big Game as that, you’ll have a great time with it. Like Piranha and other films like it, it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more. Big Game isn’t out to win Oscars. It’s not out to win anything. It’s just out to entertain you for 85 minutes. And if you open up your heart, it will.

In the mood for an old-school action adventure flick? Big Game is worth hunting down. 4/5.


Sam Love

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