Release date: 7 May 2015
Running time: 90 min
Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent, Mehmet Kurtulus.
Jalmari Helander follows up his cult comedy-horror Rare Exports with Big Game, a daft action-adventure that ditches the horror but retains the comedy of his previous work. With a budget of eight and a half million Euros, it’s the most expensive Finnish film ever made, but still impressively frugal considering its starry cast. Shot on location with the Alps substituting for his native Finland, Big Game certainly feels different from your average Hollywood actioner, but the novelty isn’t enough to save it from its multitude of flaws.
Thirteen year old mountain boy Oskari (Onni Tommila) has grown up surrounded by men who define themselves by their physical strength and prowess at hunting. Setting off into the wilderness on his own, he must prove his worth to his community by finding and killing an animal using his bow and arrow. Meanwhile, the President of the United States (Jackson) is flying overhead when Air Force One is shot down on its descent to Helsinki. When Oskari rescues the POTUS from his escape pod, he must lead him to safety as they are pursued by terrorists.
Rare Exports had an original twist on the mythology surrounding ‘Santa Claus’ which was as horrifying as it was riotously funny. With a unique fish out of water scenario and nods to 80s favourites First Blood and The Goonies, Big Game should be a ton of fun. A lot of heart and love has gone into its creation; there is an affection for the material, and this feels like a refreshingly personal work for its genre. Unfortunately though it mostly falls flat, with the fleeting moments of amusement hamstrung by long stretches of bad dialogue, uninspired plotting and ropey CGI.
Both Rare Exports and Big Game feature the real-life father/son duo of Onni and Jorma Tommila, and it’s their performances which most impress. Jackson, Broadbent et al feel a little at odds with the material, and not in the way which is likely intended. It looks impressive at times too, with mountain vistas and luscious green forests, but after the same set has been recycled 3 or 4 times it begins to feel frustratingly repetitive and rough around the edges.
There are moments when the silliness shines through, and it’s at times like this that Big Game seems most sure of itself. However Helander seems to be most engaging when he focuses on issues of masculinity within rural Finnish communities, and the tension and difficulties which arise in such testosterone fuelled environments. Hopefully he will go onto explore this in something more coherent next time. As well intentioned as Helander no doubt is, he’ll need to up his game next time if he wants to match the highs of Rare Exports.