Big Game (3 stars)

Big Game

Fun Finnish actioner from the director of Rare Exports, with Samuel L Jackson

Finnish director Jalmari Helander attracted global attention with his 2010 bad Santa tale Rare Exports. His follow-up, Big Game, reunites him with child actor Onni Tommila for a coming-of-age story that plays out as a shamelessly silly knock-off of Hollywood action cinema. With a plethora of recognisable actors – notably star Samuel L Jackson – and a brisk, easy-to-follow narrative, Big Game is likely to translate well to international audiences, with some buyer’s remorse inevitable due to childish plotting and a lack of original ideas.

Oskari (Tommila) is a 13-year-old Finn sent up into the mountains for a solo hunt that marks his passage into manhood. His father killed a bear on his own first trip, so Oskari has a lot to live up to. But when terrorists shoot down Air Force One on its way to Helsinki, Oskari becomes a man in no uncertain terms, acting as both guide and protector to the President of the United States (Jackson). Back at the Pentagon, a random assortment of overqualified, and presumably underemployed, actors, including Jim Broadbent, Felicity Huffman and Ted Levine, argue about how best to rescue the Head of State before his enemies close in.

Big Game is at least cheerful in its derivative nature, ripping off now clichéd tropes from Die Hard, Cliffhanger and many other 80s and 90s Hollywood spectacles. Working with a miniscule budget by comparison (around €8million), Helander pulls together a mixed bag of physical and CG effects in service of a plot which never makes contact with believability for a second. Jackson – a variable performer outside of his work with Tarantino – is well cast in a role originally earmarked for Mel Gibson, and seems comfortable spouting the endless nonsense laid out for him in Helander’s script. And Tommila is a refreshingly unpredictable presence, making Big Game a minor pleasure for undemanding B movie fans.

General release from Fri 8 May.

Big Game

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • Finland / Germany / UK
  • 1h 50min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jalmari Helander
  • Cast: Onni Tommila, Samuel L. Jackson, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Ted Levine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Stevenson
  • UK release: 8 May 2015

When Air Force Once is shot down over Finland, the President (Jackson) escapes but finds that his only ally is a 13-year-old Finnish boy (Tommila) on a solo hunting trip. Cheerfully derivative action flick with Jackson well-cast as POTUS, while Tommila is refreshingly unpredictable. A pleasurable, undemanding B movie.