Tongue-in-cheek action is something of a tightrope these days it seems. Gone are the days of Cliffhanger, Total Recall and Die Hard, in which arch-villains were dispatched with a trailer-worthy quip. It’s not that the scripts have changed particularly, nor the franchises or stars in some cases, but there’s definitely something that’s been lacking from the genre in recent years. Jalmari Helander’s Big Game, which sees the US president (Samuel L. Jackson) chased through the wilds of Finland by hunting enthusiasts is, by modern standards at least, a film that sounds initially promising.
If there were a checklist of elements needed to create the perfect throwback action movie – and there probably is one – Big Game would certainly score highly during the pitch. It has the unforgiving terrain, the unlikely hero, conspiracies, twists and even an urbane super-villain with a vaguely English accent.
The opening scene shows aspiring bowman Oskari (Onni Tommila) preparing for his first solo hunt: a rite of passage all local boys must go through before being declared men. His journey to adulthood is interrupted however by a flaming Air Force One falling out of the sky above him, followed by the president. Oskari takes it upon himself to lead the hapless man to safety, but only after he’s finished hunting.
Despite initial promise, the film unfortunately does have its faults. Due to vulgar word-choice, Jackson doesn’t work particularly well with anything less than a 15 certificate. Jim Broadbent cast as ageing C.I.A. tough comes off more, as one might expect, like an eccentric university professor, and the villainous Hazar (Mehmet Kurtuluş), whilst certainly mad enough, fails to live up to Rickman and Lithgow in the sophisticated bad-guy stakes. The main problem, however, is that the film strays so far into spoof territory that at times, the audience is not really sure what they’re watching. The action scenes have Wacky Races levels of stupidity to them and the showdowns are so over-the-top they make Schwarzenegger’s famous “See you at the party Richter!” seem almost gritty by comparison.
All of this said, however, the film is distinctly likeable, an effect achieved almost due to its flaws rather than in spite of them. It’ll never be up there with the greats of the genre or even be looked back on with the fondness reserved for their B-movie counterparts, but it’s an enjoyable 110 minutes of complete nonsense nonetheless.
Big Game is released nationwide on 7th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for Big Game here: