Review: Big Game
PLOT:After Air Force One is blown up in mid-air, the President lands in a Finnish forest, not yet safe from the villains who want to kill him. His only hope is a young boy, who may or may not be able to lead him to safety.
REVIEW: BIG GAME is a nutty little number. It takes a rather standard "terrorists try to take out the President" story, moves it to Finland, and pairs the beleaguered Prez with a resourceful 13-year-old. If it sounds like it might be too annoying or precious, know that BIG GAME adroitly avoids being either; it instead emerges as a quick, fun, and exciting action/buddy picture that is about ten times better than you'd expect it to be. Also: It stars Samuel L. Jackson as the President. C'mon!
The film comes from Jalmari Helander, who made an impression a few years back with the demented Christmas tale RARE EXPORTS. While I found that movie to be a bit of a miss, it introduced me to a director with some amusingly weird ideas, as well as a very good eye. Here, Helander has sharpened his focus and proven himself a director with a flair for action and unorthodox humor. The movie is beautifully photographed too (Germany stands in for Finland), and if nothing else BIG GAME should put Helander on a lot of Hollywood radars, if he's not there already.
Don't get me wrong, though. BIG GAME isn't reinventing the wheel, or even trying. In fact, it culls from plenty of 90s action romps, indeed feeling like it comes from another time. (The visual effects sometimes give that impression too.) Helander's story is basic: Air Force One has been taken down by villains, some coming from without, some from within. The President survives the ordeal and finds himself stranded in a Finnish forest, but lucky for him, he's not alone. Oskari (Onni Tommila, also from RARE EXPORTS) is a young man sent into the woods by his father to complete a right of passage: kill his first deer. Walking around with a severed deer head on his back (seriously), Oskari may not seem like he's got the right stuff, but he quickly takes charge of the odd situation. Bossing the President around, Oskari endeavors to lead him out of the forest and into his village.
But there's trouble afoot. Turns out the man who ordered Air Force One blown up isn't a terrorist, exactly, but a psychopath named Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus) who intends to hunt and, eventually, mount the President. Armed with a state of the art weapons cache, Hazar and a White House traitor track the Prez while he stumbles through the countryside seeking safety. Meanwhile, back in Washington, an impressive array of character actors (Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber, Ted Levine, Felicity Huffman) scramble to do what they can from so far away. These scenes are the least interesting in the movie, seemingly there to pad out the runtime, but at the very least Helander has populated them with solid thespians.
BIG GAME isn't exactly tongue-in-cheek, but there's a playful attitude that sets it apart from recent 90s throwbacks like WHITE HOUSE DOWN or OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. Part of the movie's charm is the interplay between Jackson and Tommila; it's entertaining to see Jackson actually appear overmatched in a battle of wits with someone, let alone a 13-year-old Finnish boy. The dialogue isn't getting this screenplay nominated anytime soon, but it's genial enough, and both leads are so personable you can't help but be engaged in their rapport.
The action sequences are crisply executed and exciting, and though some of the CGI is pretty rough, there's such goodwill emanating from the picture that you'll find you're in a forgiving mood. In a sea of self-serious blockbusters and "gritty" action melodramas, it's quite refreshing to find a movie that's simply concerned with providing a bit of zany fun swiftly and efficiently. It's no masterpiece, but BIG GAME is a minor trophy all the same.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...