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Big Game (Samuel L Jackson) - Review

Big Game

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JALMARI Helander’s Big Game is one of the oddest action films you’re likely to see in a long, long time.

Inspired by the action movies of the ’80s and ’90s (whether it’s kids entries such as Home Alone or the more adult likes of Die Hard and Air Force One), this also lampoons the exaggerated notion of heroism often found within them, while also imitating some of their more outlandish action sequences.

And yet, for all of its ambition, there are elements that also grate because of some weird casting and a nagging sense that Helander wants to have his cake and eat it.

The plot is pure hokum yet still played straight for long periods. It picks up as 13-year-old Finlander Oskari (Onni Tommila) is sent into the mountainous forests of his home country to prove his mettle as a man by hunting a deer alone. Needless to say, he gets more than anyone bargained for when the President of the United States (Samuel L Jackson) crash-lands into his territory and needs his protection from the terrorists hunting him down.

The ensuing action-adventure may promise more than it ultimately delivers but remains fun for long periods in spite of its flaws. It also gets by on the likeable chemistry between Jackson and Tommila, whose Oskari manages to combine vulnerability with determination without ever being precocious.

Jackson, for his part, invests his President with a nice line in cowardice, thereby only briefly deploying the kind of verbal fireworks for which he has become accustomed. For long periods, in fact, his powerful leader is anything but… rather, a fallible human being who enjoys projecting the image of strength rather than actually physically pushing it. In such moments, the subversive nature of Helander’s screenplay wins through.

It is, however, less successful when dealing with the fallout from the terrorist attack at the Pentagon, where the likes of Jim Broadbent’s CIA agent discuss how best to save the day. Aside from the strange casting, the script in those scenes feels very weak and contrived and detracts from the main reason for seeing the film: which is the survival thriller aspect.

Indeed, for a film with such a kick-ass premise – young boy saves American President – proceedings also feel quite pedestrian for long periods, with Helander only delivering a handful of action sequences. And that’s a shortcoming too… even though the final fireworks are gloriously OTT (in a Die Hard 2 kind of way) and include one of the most innovative death scenes you’re likely to witness in a while.

Hence, for all of its flaws (and there are more), Helander – making his English-language debut after impressing with the evil Santa flick Rare Exports – still manages to ensure that Big Game is something of a guilty pleasure. Indeed, cult status surely beckons.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: May 8, 2015