Do a Shot: for each ridiculous stunt
Take a Drink: each time Oskari stares
Take a Drink: for a movie that makes Samuel Jackson the President
Do a Shot: for each corny moment
Take a Drink: during each throwback to 80’s action movies
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
One of the best and most beloved character actors in the industry today is Samuel L. Jackson. Even at the age of 66, Jackson remains one of the biggest badasses in the industry, bringing such great passion and presence to each role he takes. Classic roles in flicks like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Snakes on a Plane, and The Avengers have made him a favorite of both critics and audiences alike.
Despite his great talent, Jackson has been in his fair share of sinking ships as far as films go. Flicks like The Man, The Spirit, and Lakeview Terrace are all films that feature Jackson’s lively personality, but were misguided efforts. Perhaps the worst role Jackson has been stuck with was one of his biggest. As Mace Windu in the Star Wars Prequels, Jackson played a dull and bland character, wasting his great talent. Jackson’s latest Big Game features some more solid work from him in a largely mediocre effort.
When President William Moore’s plane crashes on the way to a speech, a young boy, Oskari, must team up with Moore to get him to safety.
Big Game is a small budget production, but director Jalmari Helander and company do a skillful job of hiding that fact. Shot in Finland, Helander and Cinematographer Mika Orasmaa do a nice job capturing the Finnish countryside, from its dense forest to lush open plains. The action setpieces here are for the most part pulled off quite well, with the CGI looking reasonably good and Helander’s steady hand capturing each bit of action.
Shining throughout every minute of screen time is Jackson, who is clearly having a blast in the role as President Moore. His distinguished screen presence helps make him be very believable in the role, and it was a clever twist to show Jackson for a change not being the badass we’ve come to expect. As one would expect from Jackson, he gives 100% each and every minute on the screen, providing the film some much needed stability.
Big Game’s simple ambitions are also quite admirable. Helander also wrote the film, clearly having a great affection for classic 80s action films. It’s nice for a change to see an action film bring it back to the basics, focusing on delivering audiences a good time rather than over-complicating the film with unnecessary side elements. It’s earnestness is undeniable, as its B-movie vibes are a welcome change in a world full of gritty action films.
Big Game’s earnestness can’t quite cover up some of the gaping flaws the film possesses. At a slight 85 minute running time, the film feels like it’s on a treadmill, constantly moving from point A to point B with little room for breathing. It flies by for sure, but the film certainly seems like it could have used more time to develop its leading characters a bit more. As it is, the whole feels too slight.
While Jackson shines in his role, most of the cast struggles. Young Onni Tommila has the tall task of sharing the screen with Jackson throughout, but has little to work with. His blank slate of a character leaves Tommila with little to do in his performance but stare meaninglessly. Respected actors like Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, and Felicity Huffman range from either being wasted or failing to play up to the camp factor the film is going for.
The script here is quite weak. It’s fine to not have a complex story, but Helander’s script fails massively at trying to play up to its camp angle. The film tries to have a few wink at the camera comedic moments, but most of these felt poorly conceived and unoriginal. Big Game in general felt as if it needed a stronger comedic punch, which would have helped it during some of its dryer spots.
Big Game also fails to land the mark with its finale. Not only does its last action setpiece pale in comparison to some of the previous bits, but the film has the gall to the leave its audience with an awkward cliff-hanging ending. Not only does this feel weird due to the fact that there likely won’t be a sequel, but the way it is handled feels like an awkward way to close the film out.
Big Game’s fatal flaw, however, is that the film as whole feels very familiar. Its efforts to differentiate itself from other 80s throwbacks mostly misses the mark, with the film mostly feeling like the kind of B-movie that you will see on your Netflix a few months from now.
Earnest, yet inconsequential, Big Game offers some of the fun one could expect in this sort of outlandish 80’s throwback, but lacks consistency and polish. Let’s hope Samuel Jackson can do better from here on out.