DIR/WRI: Jalmari Helander • PRO: Will Clarke, Petri Jokiranta, Andy Mayson, Jens Meurer •DOP: Mika Orasmaa • ED: Iikka Hesse • MUS: Juri Seppä, Miska Seppä • DES: Christian Eisele • CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Jim Broadbent, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ray Stevenson, Felicity Huffman
You can forgive a film of a lot of things if it’s on the whole entertaining. Big Game will inevitably be uttered in the same breath as Snakes on a Plane given its claim to some key components: Samuel L Jackson, an airplane, and cheesy dialogue. Above everything else, however, the film certainly entertains.
It’s an intriguing premise: a Finnish-American co-production, starring Jackson as an unpopular American president who finds himself being hunted in a remote Finnish forest after Air Force One is shot down, with only a young Finnish boy, Oskari (Onni Tommila), to protect him. Oskari is on a rite-of-passage hunting expedition, the outcome of which will gain him his idolised father’s approval. Oskari is not quite as skilled a hunter, but the sudden appearance of the American president, and a band of violent marauders in pursuit of him, presents Oskari with an opportunity.
The marketing material puts Jackson as a typical action figure, but the film presents otherwise. He’s an incompetent president, down in the polls, and is initially useless and bumbling when his forest ordeal begins. It’s an unusual role for Jackson but it just about works. Oskari, his valiant yet often equally incompetent protector, is the true hero of the film. Tommila is constantly engaging, and Oskari’s hunting quest – be it for big game or fatherly approval – becomes the core of the narrative.
There are some well-worn tropes here: air disaster, CIA Situation Room, a chase across unforgiving terrain. Big Game is, on one hand, playing up the clichés, while at the same time happily repeating them. It knows what it is, and it delivers on its promise, with some horrendous dialogue thrown in. There’s not enough of the bad for it to qualify for ‘so bad it’s good’ territory but it does toe the line. The ‘terrorists’ in pursuit of the President are said to be psychopaths with ‘no ideology’, conveniently allowing this film to have no political undertones whatsoever. But it’s an entertaining action film, with some well-timed humour, and is worth a watch for that alone.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Big Game is released 8th May 2015