Big Game

Sam Jackson is the wimpiest US President in film history in this Finnish action movie

Big Game


Written and directed by Jalmari Helander. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Jim Broadbent, Ted Levine, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Jaymes Butler, Mehmet Kurtulus, Risto Salmi, Jorma Tommila, Gabriel Raab, Rauno Juvonen.

Note: roughly 5-10% of Big Game is in Finnish, subtitled only in Czech on local screens.

After Air Force One is shot down over rural Finland by terrorists, US President William Alan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson) must fend for himself in the woods as the baddies hunt him down in Big Game, a new Finnish-produced but (mostly) English-language film.

The president’s only support is a thirteen year-old boy named Oksari (Onni Tommila), alone in the woods as part of a vision quest-like journey to hunt down an animal and prove his worth as a man.

That premise promises some campy fun, and Big Game’s first half teases us along while setting up the basics.

For a while, it works. But when the film turns into an illogical – and highly improbable – action movie during its second half, it crashes and burns just like the President’s plane.

Secret service man Morris (Ray Stevenson) – who had previously taken a bullet for the President – is behind the attack, and the only one besides Moore to make it off of Air Force One alive; while Morris makes use of the only non-sabotaged parachute, Moore is piloted to the ground in an E.T.-like escape pod.

This sets up a fun scene in which the young boy carefully opens the pod, and communicates with the President via a cup tied to a piece of string. “Do you come in peace?”

As Morris and terrorist Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus) hunt down the President through the woods, I wondered about the effectiveness of their plan. The goal is to abduct Moore – for some reason – but it seems like shooting down Air Force One and hunting down the president through the woods is needlessly complicated, especially when Morris should have had ample opportunity to abduct the President through other means.

Back in the U.S., the Vice President (Victor Garber), the director of the CIA (Felicity Huffman), General Underwood (Ted Levine), and special advisor Herbert (Jim Broadbent) helplessly react to the situation, in scenes that must have been shot in a day or two on a single stage and completely waste much of the film’s talented English-speaking cast.

I liked the scenes between Jackson and young Tommila, however; the U.S. star is more low-key here than usual, and strikes up a genuine rapport with the kid, who has only character with any kind of arc here.

When you cast Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States, however, you’re promising something that Big Game completely fails to deliver.

Moore is one of the weakest U.S. Presidents ever to grace the big screen, getting driven around the Finnish wilderness and fed by a thirteen year-old boy, not knowing how to use a gun, taking punches without mustering up the strength to fight back, and finally, getting stuffed into an ice box and helicoptered through the forest. What a wimp!

During the climactic scenes, as the characters fly through the air and explosions fill the screen, writer-director Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports) loses control of his film and whatever good will had been built up to that point. And thus, a great B-movie opportunity is squandered. 

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