Review: Big Game (TIFF 2014)

Big Game (TIFF 2014)
7 10

PLOT: In a small Finnish village, tradition states that when a boy turns thirteen, he must venture into the woods alone to hunt, and bring a trophy back to his people. Young Oskari (Omni Tommila) is the son of the village's greatest hunter, but when his turn comes, he winds up being caught in the cross-hairs of a terrorist plot to hunt the biggest game of all, the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson).

REVIEW Kids movies these days tend to suck. Typically they're so sugary sweet that they have no edge, or are so jam-packed with explosions and eye-candy that they verge on being mind-numbing, and are more-or-less punishment for their parents to sit through. BIG GAME, from director Jalmari Helander (RARE EXPORTS) seeks to remedy that, with this being a strong throwback to the kind of kids movies we got in the eighties, like THE GOONIES or THE MONSTER SQUAD. It has a strong, positive message about responsibility and courage, but it also has enough edge to make the kids feels like they're not watching a kids movie, which should make this a kind of classic for pre-teen boys.

It's funny how, of all the high concept “president-in-jeopardy” films to come out over the last year or so, BIG GAME, at a fraction of the budget of something like WHITE HOUSE DOWN, is the most effective. Part of it is the sense of fun Helander infuses into the film. Running a scant eighty-minutes, it's a total blast, with a tongue-in-cheek approach that constantly reminds you that you shouldn't be taking any of this seriously. In a way it's like a kids version of PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (suitable considering Ray Stevenson is in it), in that I'd call it “dumb but awesome.” Every action scene is designed with the sole purpose of making the audience clap, cheer and laugh.

The fun is so infectious that even Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having a blast as the commander-in-chief. While I've been extremely critical of his listless acting in DTV-quality fare like the abysmal KITE, his performance is top-shelf here. He plays a likable, vulnerable president who, in a nice touch, is more concerned with protecting the kid then saving his own skin, while also finding time for a few quintessentially “Sam the Man” style moments, including a badass use of “muthaf*cka”. I know, I know, isn't this a kids movie? Trust me, they've heard worse.

As for the kid, Omni Tommila is an inspired choice. He's almost like a Finnish “Short Round” and his chemistry with Jackson is terrific, with both seeming to have genuine affection for each other as their characters are forced to work together to survive. Additionally, BIG GAME has some juicy character actor cameos, including Ted Levine as the snarling army general back at the White House, and Jim Broadbent, in a hilarious stretch, as the CIA's top spy. Yes, that Jim Broadbent.

Despite the low-budget, Helander's made a dynamic-looking film that even held up to being projected on a giant IMAX screen at the TIFF press screening. Even the CGI shots of an exploding Air Force One look better than some of BIG GAME's pricier Hollywood competition. While this is obviously not high art, the sense of fun felt refreshing after some of TIFF's more serious entries. It's an eighty minute blast, and the perfect father-son action fare.

Source: JoBlo.com



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