Hunting season takes a very patriotic turn in Big Game, the latest example of a “president meets unlikely savour” movie brought to us by director, Jalmari Helander. It’s only after falling devastatingly short of its older compatriots, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen, that you think it couldn’t get much worse. That’s before watching Samuel L. Jackson – the man who gave us Nick Fury – getting his arse handed to him by a guy who is one mild tap on the chest away from a heart attack. I was borderline teary.
Oskari (Onni Tommila), a young teenager who has some big shoes to fill as his thirteenth birthday warrants a lifelong Finnish tradition: braving the elements in order to bag his first kill as a hunter. With a legendary hunter as a father, tensions are high when the boy struggles to even wield a bow. Undeterred, he enters the foreboding forest anyway, with his family legacy in the balance. This, however, becomes the least of his worries when out of the blue, an escape pod of unbelievably sci-fi proportions totals the boy’s campsite where a bewildered president (Jackson) stumbles out. From there, it becomes a battle of grit and gusto as the young hunter gets roped into helping his newfound ally avoid the terrorists who are having a hunt of their own.
While there are a few warm moments between the leading men, this disaster of a disaster movie has very little to offer other than the tradition-bound Finnish community. This on its own could easily have been the next Hanna retelling if pushed a little further. Unfortunately, the movie went the American way, with an overblown assassination attempt on Jackson’s character which was unorthodox, underwritten and unnecessary.
I couldn’t help but shake off a feeling that some parody was trying to sneak its way into the frame, with its painfully obvious villains and cultural faux-pas. But it just wasn’t enough. In the end, I took it as a poor example of a film-maker’s misconception that explosions are a cure for underdeveloped characters and gaping plot holes. Sorry, but they’re not, regardless of how big the blast radius is.
Some go as far as calling it tongue-in-cheek, and a hundred years from now, I can envision Big Game being one of those movies that become a cult classic for – and I quote – “being so bad it’s good” and when that day comes, I’ll happily eat my own hat. Either way, the random chuckle-worthy moments didn’t do much else other than divert attention away from the rest of the two hours where I genuinely felt like my brain cells were being unfairly punished, despite a valiant attempt from the cast.
The harsh truth of it all is that Big Game was all style (and I use the term loosely), and no substance. For the sake of its success, it may need to jump ship in terms of genre because for an action piece, the characters were flat, the writing was transparent and in terms of overdone clichés, this movie disappointingly ticked all the boxes.