All the pres­i­dent’s quips

Slick ac­tion and ripe dia­logue put zip in this La­p­land adventure, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

BIG GAME Di­rected by Jal­mari He­lander. Star­ring Sa­muel L Jack­son, Onni Tom­mila, Ray Stevenson, Mehmet Kur­tu­lus, Vic­tor Gar­ber, Ted Levine, Felic­ity Huff­man, Jim Broad­bent, Jorma Tomilla. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 90 min A big man from Por­ta­d­own pur­sues Pres­i­dent Sa­muel L Jack­son about La­p­land while Jim Broad­bent watches via satel­lite. What could go wrong? Well, al­most ev­ery­thing. Hap­pily, in his sec­ond fea­ture, Jal­mari He­lander has struck a de­light­ful bal­ance be­tween quip-heavy Rea­gan-era hero­ics, rugged H Rider Hag­gard-style adventure and ec­cen­tric­i­ties that are all the direc­tor’s own.

The ad­ver­tise­ments on the sides of Dublin buses sug­gest generic ma­chine-gun may­hem. But any­body who was lucky enough to catch He­lander’s Rare Ex­ports: A Christ­mas Tale – a hor­ror film con­cern­ing Sa­tanic San­tas – will an­tic­i­pate some­thing a bit less main­stream.

Sure enough, we begin with a pro­logue, en­tirely in Finnish, that shows a mid­dleaged man dis­patch­ing his young son Oskari (Onni Tom­mila) on a solo char­ac­ter­build­ing hunt­ing trip. If he re­turns with a deer’s car­cass he will be a man. Hav­ing seen the poster, we sus­pect Arc­tic ru­mi­nants will be the least of his con­cerns.

Mean­while, a few thou­sand me­tres above, Pres­i­dent

Jack­son is kick­ing back on Air­force One. Fol­low­ing var­i­ous point­ers to­wards loom­ing dou­ble-crosses, the plane is struck by mis­siles and Sam para­chutes into the wilder­ness. His body­guard (County Ar­magh’s own Ray Stevenson) fol­lows closely be­hind, but we sus­pect he may not be on the side of the an­gels. Soon, Oskari and his ar­rows are all that stand be­tween POTUS and an­ni­hi­la­tion.

It’s not en­tirely clear how much of Big Game is funny on pur­pose, but it hardly mat­ters when the ac­tion is so slick and the dia­logue so ripe. “Find the Pres­i­dent, kill the sons of bitches who are af­ter him and bring him back,” Broad­bent’s se­cu­rity hon­cho shrugs when asked for a strat­egy.

Tom­mila is su­perb as the baf­fled kid and Jack­son mixes warmth with ag­gres­sion in agree­able mea­sure.

If the film has one flaw it is that it over­com­pli­cates its ini­tial cute sce­nario – wealthy hun­ters pay to kill the “big­gest game of all” – with a much less amus­ing con­spir­acy the­ory.

No mat­ter. Few cur­rent re­leases of­fer quite so much good fun.

Potus v them

Sa­muel L Jack­son and Onni Tom­mila in Big Game

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