When terrorists down Air Force One in a Finnish forest, they hunt the President (Jackson) for sport. But they haven’t counted on the intervention of teenage hunter Oskari (Tommila), who has plenty of strings to his bow...
Of all the Die Hard clones to walk into all the popcorn joints in all the world, Big Game looked different from the moment it was announced. It had a couple of quirks — a teenager as a hero, a glorious outdoor setting a world away from the usual boat/plane/White House malarkey — that seemed to give it a chance at succeeding where others had failed. It even had a Die Hard veteran on board to grouse and gripe while being shot at by bad guys. On paper, it looked like a belter. Sadly, films aren’t made on paper.
Helander’s last movie, the dark Santa Claus horror-comedy Rare Exports, has wit and invention in spades. But here the action sequences are, for the most part, leaden and unimaginatively staged, while the script never seems to know whether to stick or twist in taking the Mikael. Key moments, like Samuel L. Jackson’s President inspiring the movie’s young hero (a rather impassive Onni Tommila) by sharing a story of how he once pissed himself in public, should be minor classics of camp, but instead just sit there, tonally uncertain.
There are bright spots, though. The Finnish/German locations are stunning, while the cast are experts at elevating schlock. Jim Broadbent — absolutely nobody’s idea of a badass CIA wonk — rolls up as exactly that, sporting a horrible jumper, Generic American Accent #67, and taking bites out of a huge sandwich almost as if to stop himself from laughing at the nonsense he has to spout.
And in the last 20 minutes or so, as the bullets and arrows finally start to fly, the film Big Game could have been begins to show itself, with cheesy one-liners, energetic action and a sense that Helander finally gets the joke. Nowhere is this more evident than in the hilarious send-off granted to one major character, one so gloriously OTT and absurd that it may already have closed the book on 2015’s best death scene. If only the rest of the film had been this fun.
Destined to be a big drinking game — take a sip when Broadbent bites his sandwich — but little else, this feels like a major missed opportunity.