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Big Game Review


The last time we saw Finnish director Jalmari Helander, he was giving Santa Claus a creepy makeover with Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. For his second feature, Big Game, he changes tack quite a bit, harkening back to action adventure movies of the 80’s and 90’s with the fun, and increasingly improbable, tale of William Moore, President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson), stranded in the wilds of Finland after Air Force One is shot down. With Oskari (Onni Tomilla), a young local boy on a hunting trip to prove he has become a man, as his only protection, the President is hunted by terrorists, led by the psychotic Hazar (Memet Kurtulus), eager to claim their “Big Game” prize.

Logic isn’t Big Game’s strong suit, and it’s all the better for it. If it was, we wouldn’t get the sight of Ray Stevenson’s Agent Morris parachuting out of Air Force One as guided missiles whizz past him, or Oskari (OTomilla) and Moore riding a freezer attached to the bottom of a helicopter. Big Game works best at its most outlandish, Hollander capturing the tone and style of the movies he’s aping perfectly. The action is loud, the villains even louder, and the plot, for the most part is wrapped up in a nice little bow once the end credits role. Never once does this movie take itself too seriously, and it barrels through its 90 minute run time at a rollicking pace, but at times you would wish it would slow down and explain itself. Certain elements are never fully explored, and while there are some twists and turns that nicely subvert expectations, you will be left scratching your head at times by certain details that are frustratingly kept out of our reach. Case in point: the villains motivation is twisted like a pretzel, certain revelations never quite making sense or ringing true, and their particular story ends on an incredibly odd note that you feel needed an extra ten minutes to resolve.

With the exception of the taking down of Air Force One, the action is oddly condensed to an extended sequence that serves as the finale, taking place in a very short window of time. But Hollander does cram quite a bit into that short space of time, and the set pieces on offer won’t fail to put a goofy grin on your face. The cast assembled, who are well aware of the Big Game’s ridiculous nature, don’t break much of a sweat, but still put in entertaining performances. Jackson tones down the usual persona he rolls out for this sort of movie, and he and Tomilla spark of each other really well. Stevenson just wheels out the tough guy persona he’s been perfecting since Punisher: War Zone, but has some really fun moments, as does Kurtulus as a bad guy ripped straight from the 80’s. The rest of the cast, including Felicity Huffman, Ted Levine, and Jim Broadbent, have nothing more to do than react to the story unfolding on a giant monitor, but do so admirably, especially Broadbent who is as endearing as usual, most of the time just munching on a sandwich.

With a couple of more drafts of the script to iron out some story problems, Big Game could have been something more. But as it is, it’s still a throwback to a much simpler time for action movies that will leave you entertained if nothing else.

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The Movie Bit: Big Game Review
Big Game Review
The Movie Bit
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