By Jon Gallagher
Big Game (EuropaCorp USA, 2015) – Director: Jalmiri Helander. Writers: Jalmiri Helander (s/p and story), Petri Jokiranta (story). Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Omni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Jorma Tommila, Risto Salmi, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent, Rauno Juvonen, Jaymes Butler, Jason Steffan, Jean-Luc Julien, & Erik Marcus Schuetz. Color, Rated PG-13, 110 minutes.
What makes a good movie? Well, one needs to have an interesting story, good dialogue, decent actors and actresses, and a director who knows how to not only shoot the individual scenes (and from what angle), but who can also assemble all the scenes he’s shot into a logical, interesting order.
What makes a bad movie? When a film is lacking in one or more of the above criteria.
Sometimes, directors can motivate bad actors into delivering impressive performances. Sometimes a strong story or plot will override a poorly-written script (but not often). In other words, even if one part of the equation lags behind the other parts, there are ways to pull a decent movie out of it.
Some movies are just so bad that they’re good (Plan 9 From Outer Space). Others are just a total waste of time, money, and celluloid.
Big Game falls into the later category.
This is one absolutely horrid movie.
The film had potential. Terrorists shoot down the president’s plane, but the POTUS escapes; his escape pod landing in the mountains of Finland. He is found by a 13-year-old boy who is taking part in a tradition that sends 13 year olds into the woods and mountains to return with the carcass of an animal that he has hunted and shot with his bow and arrow. Together, they battle nature and the bad guys, forming an unlikely friendship.
Doesn’t sound bad. Throw Samuel L. Jackson into the lead role of the president and it sounded like something I’d be interested in seeing.
And then the movie started.
The boy is the son of the village’s best hunter and it will be hard for him to live up to the reputation of his old man. Still, his father sends him out into the wilds of the Finnish forests on the back of a four-wheeler.
Meanwhile, the president is on his way to a conference in Scandinavia and we see him on Air Force One. One of his Secret Service men comes in wearing a neon-yellow t-shirt with the words “BAD GUY” emblazoned across the chest. Okay, maybe he doesn’t, but he might as well have. It’s that obvious that he’s going to be bad guy here.
On the mountainside is a terrorist who’s doing his best impression of Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, but is failing worse than I would if I tried to imitate Marilyn Monroe. To prove to us how evil and maniacal he is, he blows up an innocent local man, even after giving him a running head start of a couple of miles, with something that looks like a LAW Rocket.
Air Force One is shot down by the terrorist on the mountain, but not before the POTUS jettisons in his little Escape Pod One. The bad guy/Secret Service agent parachutes out before AF1 goes down and hooks up with the mountainside bad guy. They have a brief Alpha Male moment to prove who the real leader is (turns out to be the Secret Service guy), before going in search of the president.
Meanwhile, the president has been found by the kid, who is unimpressed being in the presence of the leader of the free world. They survive the night in the woods on the mountainside, but are captured by the bad guys who turn the kid loose (we knew that would be a mistake).
Back in Washington, the Department of Big Screen TVs and Antiquated Computer Equipment has called in the vice president, a nine-star general, and a retired CIA operative who attempts to fill in all the gaping holes in the plot with his previously attained knowledge (like who the terrorists are). They manage to turn the spy satellites into real-time video cameras so they’re able to watch events take place on the ground at the same time they’re happening (yeah, right!).
The kid helps the president escape again, but once more the bad guys are hunting them down.
The director attempts to keep things interesting by having a couple of twists in the plot, one which was as subtle as a nine-alarm fire: the bad guys turn on each other, but neither turns on the president.
The president ends up shooting the Mountainside Baddie because, even though he’s a feared terrorist and can operate a LAW Rocket, he doesn’t know how to cock an automatic weapon so that it will fire.
The Secret Service bad guy is also dispatched, this time by the kid. Earlier, in some of the horrid dialogue, it’s revealed that the agent took a bullet for the president and it’s still lodged just inches from his heart, waiting for it to be pushed into his heart which will kill him. That’s his whole motivation for capturing and killing the president. The kid shoots the agent with his trusty bow and arrow. The arrow bounces off (obviously the writers don’t know the first thing about bows and arrows), but not before it manages to push that bullet fragment into the agent’s heart, killing him just before he pulls the trigger to annihilate both the kid and the POTUS.
It’s a bad movie, plain and simple. Bad. Bad movie!
The dialogue is forced, the actors are stiff, and the plot is weak. There are technical inaccuracies as well, which shows that the writer didn’t bother to research. They tell the VP he has to take the oath of office to officially assume the presidency once they think the president is dead. But in reality, the Constitution reads that upon the president’s death, the VP automatically assumes command; the oath is just a formality.
My recommendation? Don’t rent it, don’t stream it, don’t even bother watching it if it’s on free TV. It’s almost two hours of your life you’ll never get back.