Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson
While flying over Finland Air Force One is shot down, leaving the president (Jackson) stranded in the remote wilderness where he meets 13 year old Oskari (Omni), who has been sent to spend a night in the forest to catch a dear to prove his manhood to those in his village. The unlikely duo must now evade the terrorists who want to capture the president as their own ‘big game’ and survive the night.
Once again I face the age-old problem of the effectively pointless task of writing a review of a film where the cast list, trailers and poster show exactly what kind of film it is anyway. It is an action film with Samuel L. Jackson as the president, and during its suitably brief 90 minutes it delivers exactly what is expected; a nonsensical plot, over the top performances, laughable characters, cheesy one-liners and even cheesier slow-mos. If entered with the right expectations Big Game is perfect switch-your-brain-right-off entertainment, but ultimately it is of course utter tosh.
What is most disconcerting about this film, and this does admittedly make it more engaging, is that you can never be quite sure where you stand with it; just actually how self-aware and intentionally bad is this film? As the performances are so over the top and dialogue so cheesy that surely the whole thing has to be a parody of itself!
The only slightly reliable indicator may be the writer/director Jalmari Helander and the fact his previous film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale had some wonderfully dark and intelligent humour. Helander proved in this film that he is a filmmaker with a brain and so in what is his first English language film it may well be more intentionally bad than just plain bad with the laughs being more WITH than AT.
Either way, it is hard to know on the evidence of Big Game whether Helander can make a career for himself in Hollywood, but with Big Game he most certainly proves that he can deliver great visual spectacle on a tiny budget as it does have some half decent action sequences (budget considered). Meanwhile his camerawork of dramatic (but actually very non-Finnish) scenery is done with a certain level of aplomb, and Juri and Miska Seppä’s score is suitably over the top and cheesy.
The performances too are suitably ridiculous; Samuel L. Jackson is, well Samuel L. Jackson in a suit, but does it especially well, especially when the dialogue allows him to swear. Meanwhile Ray Stevenson delivers a performance of pure pantomime as one of the film’s villains, while Mehmet Kurtulus suitably chews scenery excessively as a role which is basically ‘Nasty Generic Middle Eastern Terrorist’. Meanwhile the performances of those back at The Pentagon are outrageously (and hopefully intentionally) over the top, including a sandwich (and scenery) chomping Jim Broadbent who obviously has no intention of making any effort whatsoever with his performance (or his hair).
Big Game may be indeed the film version of an interview for its director, and if the vacancy is to be given the chance to make good old fashioned fun blockbusters that are first and foremost just pure entertainment, then in my opinion Jalmari Helander passes the interview with flying colours! It has countless flaws, is tonally all over the place and has a pointless 11th hour plot twist (though admittedly surprising, it does ultimately serve no point other than make sure the film stretches to 90 minutes). However full credit has to go to Big Game for being exactly what it is expected to be; it is utter rubbish, but undeniably entertaining rubbish.
Everything an action film that stars Samuel L. Jackson as the president of the United States of America should be; Big Game is all kinds of rubbish, but when watched with the right frame of mind and expectations (and consumption of alcohol), is undeniably great fun.