Big Game is the kind of movie that would have me proclaiming it one of the best movies ever if I were in my teens and my adult self found it pretty fun too.
Despite its faults, ‘Big Game’ is one of those perfectly fine distraction type movies you’ll sit down on a lazy Saturday, watch and be satisfied. It’s not a high-concept film, the plot is a bit slim and the budget isn’t what you’d expect out a summer action effort, but it’s got enough charm that you’re likely to just go along with it and enjoy the ride.
As President William Moore (Samuel L. Jackson, Avengers: Age of Ultron) prepares for a major diplomatic meeting aboard Air Force One, 13-year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) departs on a rite of passage hunting mission. When terrorists shoot down the plane, Moore teams with Oskari to stay ahead of his pursuers while Moore’s advisers plot out a rescue strategy.
In a nice change, Moore’s staff, including terrorist expert Herbert (Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas), the CIA director (Felicity Huffman) and Gen. Underwood (Ted Levine) are surprisingly competent and not bickering over who has the best plan. After factoring in Victor Garber (The Flash) as the vice president and Ray Stevenson (The Punisher War Zone) as secret service head Morris, the film boasts a better than normal cast for a B-movie.
Director/Screenwriter Jalmari Helander avoids the movie-ruining mistake of taking the story too seriously. It’s a crazy premise — a boy armed with a bow and arrow being able to protect the president from trained soldiers — and Helander embraces it in a way that’s easier to accept than other president in jeopardy films like ‘White House Down.’ Helander injects a playful spirit throughout and the parts that are supposed to get laughs are actually pretty funny.
Helander also doesn’t bother dabbling in subtleties. You’ll easily be able to discern most of the villains within a few moments and there’s a sense that a lot of the budget — after the actors’ salaries — went to explosions. Shot in the Alps, the lush backdrop makes for an unconventional and intriguing location for an action film.
It’s movies like this that make it easy to appreciate Jackson’s love for film. He can go from an Oscar-nominated film, a million dollar summer blockbuster to headlining a smaller scale simple movie like ‘Big Game’ and give each role the same degree of effort. Jackson has to carry the film, but he doesn’t overwhelm Tommila and gives him plenty of moments to bounce off him without pulling out his A-lister card and dominating every scene. Jackson’s gracious in sharing the spotlight with his much younger co-star.
With a brief 90 min. run time, Helander doesn’t let the film wear out its welcome almost to the extent it ends before wrapping up every plot line. The final act is a tad more open-ended than I’d prefer as a late revealing twist doesn’t disappointingly get resolved.
The PG-13 rating means a few trademark Jackson calling cards are creatively censored and most of the violent acts are shot from a distance. All the easier to make the film a staple on TNT, USA, FX, etc. for years to come.