The Hunt Has a Familiar Quality in Big Game
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- Updated Aug 21, 2015
DVD Release Date: August 25, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: June 25, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language)
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Jalmari Helander
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Ted Levine, Mehmet Kurtulus
"Change plan. Just kill him," reads a text received by one of the bad guys toward the end of Big Game—as if that plan were ever in doubt. Big Game is, in an era of bombastic superhero franchises, even more predictable than the tiresome let’s-save-the-universe-again comic-book films that are having their (extended) zeitgeist moment. But it’s also leaner—just 90 minutes—and, gasp!, more fun, than today’s fashionably dark blockbusters.
That doesn't mean Big Game is good, exactly, but it delivers the type of straight-ahead storytelling of 1990s-era blockbusters: one man, against the odds, taking on the bad guys and winning. This time the action heroes are the president of the United States and the young boy trying to protect him, while the bad guys are terrorists looking to score a PR payoff by downing the president’s plane, then stuffing and mounting his corpse. Their “inside job” will require some help from a rogue Secret Service Agent (Ray Donovan) and familiarity with the rugged, mountainous terrain over which they hunt the president.
It all feels like a blend of Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger (1993), Wolfgang Peterson’s Air Force One (1997) and David Mamet’s The Edge (1997). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but while those films felt fresher in their day than this one does now, there's still some fun to be had with Big Game.
The movie opens with terrorists on the ground disabling Air Force One's defenses while the plane is transporting the president to Helsinki. President William Allan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson, The Avengers) is hurriedly placed into an escape pod by top Secret Service Agent Morris (Ray Stevenson, Three Musketeers) to avoid being taken down with the plane. Moore ejects and parachutes to safety, as does Morris—but not before he reveals himself as the insider who helped plan the operation.
Once on the ground, Morris meets up with his team of terrorists, while President Moore is assisted by Oskari (Onni Tommila), a young boy spending the night alone in the woods as part of his initiation into manhood. Oskari has much to learn about survival himself—he can’t even properly use his bow and arrow. But such a detail is, of course, nothing more than a tip-off that the film’s climax is sure to involve Oskari having to accurately shoot that very same bow and arrow.
Part of the fun of Big Game is figuring out just when, and how, such key details will re-emerge in the story—although your willingness to go along with such routine plotting may depend on the amount of money you spent on tickets to Big Game.
Even if the film tries your patience, you know it’ll be over within an hour-and-a-half. You also won’t be able to stop yourself from grinning—or maybe guffawing—during a ludicrous finale that involves an ejector seat and Oskari’s new-found prowess in archery.
If nothing else, it’s fun to watch C.I.A. veteran Jim Broadbent putter around while dribbling out nuggets of wisdom to a general (Ted Levine), the C.I.A. director (Felicity Huffman, who is given little to do) and the vice president (Victor Garber).
The summer isn't lacking for a big, dumb action movie that delivers what it promises, but if you've already seen the special effects-driven Jurassic World and need to remind yourself of the more standard action-movie pleasures of a few decades ago, then Big Game should do. There can still be a thrill to the hunt—even one as familiar as Big Game.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: The Lord’s name taken in vain; several uses of foul language; “motherf…” [the person speaking can’t get the last two syllables out]; “pissed his pants”
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: A man takes prescription pills
- Sex/Nudity: None
- Violence/Crime: A pilot is told to run for his life and then is shot; another man is shot; a plane crash; a dead man’s body and bloodied head are shown; a large deer head is strapped to Oskari’s back; several fights and gunshots; a dead body in a downed plane; a man falls to his death; an explosion
- Religion/Marriage/Morals: Terrorist is said to be “not religious,” an illegitimate child, and a “psycho”; an oath of office includes “for my God and country”