A young boy is left to fend for himself in the forest as the traditional right of passage of his family. Meanwhile Air force One is shot out of the sky over the forest with the President as its only survivor. When they meet, the boy must help the President survive as he is run down by a ludicrously rich psychopath who is hunting him for sport.
When’s the last time you saw a Finnish film? I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen two in the past decade, a charming outing called The Cuckoo and the very weird Rare Exports (AKA Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale). Of those only Rare Exports made any kind of a splash; it must have gone down well in it’s domestic market anyways because its director, Jalmari Helander, has been given the biggest budget in Finland film history (€8,500,000) to make a big American style action film with the aim, one assumes, of turning the worlds eye onto a very capable but overlooked hub of creativity.
Now, that synopsis suggests that they’ve gone way overboard, and in their naive attempts to reach a world market put together a film of such broad stupidity that no one in their right mind would want to watch it. In fact, with that story, one might think, by rights, it should have gone straight to home entertainment.
But here’s were the savvy begins, they’ve cast one of the most recognisable and up for it stars in Hollywood as The President (Mr. Samuel L. Jackson) and a bevy of talented character actors to fill out the English speaking roles in the film, and put together a dumb but decidedly impressive trailer that suggests at the very least a fun old time.
And with Big Game that’s what you get, a fun old time, no more, no less.
There are more facets to the story than the synopsis indicates, but the film’s no smarter for it; the set-up is pure 90s action silliness and the film just rolls with that. It really is put together from a number of films you know well; we have a child versus terrorists (Toy Soldiers), Turncoats versus The President on his own plane (Air Force One), terrorists in the wilderness (Cliffhanger) and hunting humans for sport (Hard Target).
If mashing that collection up doesn’t appeal to you then don’t bother, the odds are you won’t enjoy it, but it can’t go unsaid, there’s a little more to Big Game than aping daft films, an affectionate knowingness that stops just short of tongue in cheek, as if Helander knew exactly what he was doing at every stage of the production and came out with precisely the kind of film he wanted to make.
To say the script is written by people whose primary language isn’t English, the dialogue is nonetheless sharp and witty, if paired back for simplicity’s sake, and the performances compliment this perfectly.
Sam Jackson, known for giving the little dude a shot at big filmmaking, really doesn’t phone it in, he embraces the material and puts forward one of his most likable performances to date, not once winking to the audience in suggestion that he might be slumming it. The rest of the cast take their lead from this and put in sometimes broad but very respectful turns to represent for the film the way it deserves.
As you might image, the visuals are quite lovely, all rivers and woods and mountains, but the visual FX too are rather impressive, which sells Finland as a filmmaking entity with more vision than most of Europe, the UK included, for which they should be praised.
Yes, Big Game is a simple and quite silly action film of 90s sensibilities, but it knows what it is and has fun with it. The end is a little anti-climactic but if you’re up for a proper popcorn flick and you’re willing to go along for the ride, you’ll likely have as much fun as the cast seem to be having.