Big Game (2015) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language
Running Time: 90 min.

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Mehmet Kurtulus, Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Ted Leivne, Jorma Tommila
Director: Jalmari Helander
Screenplay: Jalmari Helander

Review published July 6, 2015

Set in the mountainous Finnish Lapland, Onni Tommila (Rare Exports) plays Oskari, a 13-year-old wannabe-hunter given 24 hours to prove he's growing up by returning to his clan with an animal bigger than him.  On that fateful day, Air Force One would come crashing down in that very forest, leading the boy to discover William Alan Moore (Jackson, Kingsman), the President of the United States, waiting securely in his escape pod for someone to get him.  What POTUS doesn't know is that his downed plane was all a ruse to make him the prey in a deadly game funded by a wealthy terrorist (Kurtulus, Equilibrium) looking to make a statement by capturing and killing the Leader of the Free World.

Caught somewhere between a big, dumb actioner and a well-made kids flick is Big Game, perhaps too violent for children and too juvenile for discriminating adults, but highly watchable for those just looking for an explosive action-oriented crowd-pleaser without much in the way of plot overhead. And wow, what a cast of character actors it has for a film that basically ended up straight to VOD in the United States, though it did get a theatrical release in other parts of the world.  Helmed and scripted by Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports), who shows far more chops as a director than as a writer of dialogue, this is quite a well-produced and skillfully edited movie, reportedly Finland's most expensive to date, that does manage to raise the adrenaline levels as a thrill ride, even if will eat away at your brain cells from its sheer stupidity in its story developments.

At just under 90 minutes, it doesn't really tax on your time, but it does feel a bit abbreviated, perhaps because we spend a lengthy amount of time with Oskari, his father, and the need for the lad to prove himself by killing something. Young Tommila has a nice screen presence, but he's not really enough of a seasoned thespian that would make his turn from timid and naive boy to Finland's ultimate bad-ass plausible.  The build-up heavy film suffers from truncating the movie's climax, plus adding a few twists and turns few will not see coming.

The action sequences defy rationale or physics, such as a running jump off a cliff and only helicopter cargo that not even Carl Lewis could have cleared.  There's also a lengthy one in which two character take a tumbledown a mountain while ensconced in a large freezer that might have even scuffed up Indiana Jones more than these guys.  If you like so-absurd-they're-fun action flicks like the ones that came out in the 1990s, and even the previous year with White House Down, you'll probably enjoy the low-bar entertainment that is Big Game, which seems to be fully aware it's a silly genre piece playing broadly to audiences looking for mindless fun.

As for me, while I can't say that I didn't find it consummately watchable, the sometimes wince-inducing dialogue (especially in the persistent delivery of chest-beating American hubris) sure does make it feel every bit as dumb as it is, and there's a beat or two missing as bosses start to get dispatched that might have made the climax and ending much more satisfying.  It looks like it will hit the bull's-eye but doesn't have enough force to drive its creative arrow in and have it stick.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo