Big Game (2014)


Film review of the action/adventure about a young Finnish boy saving the American President, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Onni Tommila. 

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Director: Jalmari Helander. Subzero/Altitude et al. (12a)



Cast & credits

Producers: Will Clarke, Petri Jokiranta, Andy Mayson, Jens Meurer.
Writer: Jalmari Helander.
Camera: Mika Orasmaa.
Music: Juri Seppa, Miska Seppa.
Sets: Christian Eisele.

Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Jorma Tommila, Risto Salmi, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent.


When a Finnish boy (Tommila) is sent by his male peers into the mountains to hunt and kill an animal as a right of passage, he doesn’t expect to find an escape pod from the recently downed Air Force One, with the American President (Jackson) inside it. Forgetting the prize of a deer’s head, he sets off with a living head of state to take back to his father, little knowing that they are being hunted by a treacherous Secret Service Agent (Stevenson) and a psychotic big game hunter (Kurtulus).

ReviewBig Game poster

Finland is a hitherto largely unexplored cinematic terrain, outside of Finnish film of course. A few scenes in Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Gorky Park (1983) when permission to film in Russia was refused not withstanding, the more easily accessible Scandinavian climes of Denmark, Sweden and Norway seem to have been more appealing to producers and location scouts.

Big Game, an admittedly silly and far-fetched action adventure, might just change that, proudly showing off the mouth-droopingly awesome and unyielding snow-capped peaks, craggy precipices and lush deciduous forests (this is, at the time of writing, the most expensive Finnish film produced).

The film has struggled at the Finnish box office. This could be due to audience unease at the implausibility of a comic/adventure blockbuster about a child saving the leader of the free world in the back of beyond

They might also have more sense than to get hugely excited about such over-the-top fare with ridiculous action set pieces such as helicopter rides through treetops with people suspended in freezers below them. A freezer that then bounces down a mountainside and into a river, with both people inside surviving with only a few cuts and scrapes.

Of course they would!

As a B-movie on Red Bull, this is still a solid, fun and exciting film. It might also make a star out of the hardy and very able Tommila who proves worth his weight in gold as Oskari. A sort of CBeebies Bear Grylls, you get the impression from the start he could survive alone in the wilderness. Tommila has an audience-pleasing mix of gung-ho enthusiasm and adolescent awkwardness.

Jackson, to his credit does not hog the limelight and relaxes into taking a back seat and letting his young co-star shine. It’s also refreshing to see him play a man who is not an out and out bad ass mo’ of’. He is initially an inept and callow man who can’t even put his shoes on without causing a state of emergency, but eventually finding courage and resourcefulness.

There are poor aspects of the B-movie not least in the perfunctory and almost defunct scenes back at US HQ. Could Huffman be given any less to say or do as a CIA Director? Has Broadbent, as a terrorist expert, ever been more annoying?

At least the jingoistic drivel they espouse (including Garber, as an ambitious Vice President, who screams that Jackson is the “leader of the most powerful nation the world has ever known!”) sounds sweetly misguided and patriotic as a foreigner saves the President, rather than teeth grindingly arrogant.

Of course, this being a very American slanted film, the evil, unbalanced, psychotic baddies are fashionably middle eastern in appearance, with one even wearing riding jodhpurs to go ‘on the hunt’ for a President he wants to stuff and add to his big game collection (nice touch). Stevenson’s snarling, triple-faced villain is of the lowest drawer of panto.

Check out the official Big Game trailer on Youtube.


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