Big Game is the type of movie that should have been made in the 1990s after the success of Cliffhanger and Air Force One, and been among the final entries of The Cannon Group. Heavy on the cheese factor (liquid, not the other kind), the movie is stupid fun, which is expected when you cast Samuel L. Jackson as the president of the United States.
Not only does he eject from Air Force One (twice), he teams up with a 13-year-old Finnish boy that is on a quest to become a great hunter like his father, all the while fending off a psychopathic terrorist that wants to hunt down POTUS, only to follow that with killing, mounting, and stuffing him as a trophy.
The B-grade actioneer is populated by talented acting veterans, not unlike what John Carpenter did with Escape from New York, with the likes of Ernest Borgnine and Harry Dean Stanton. Everyone plays it straight, despite the movie’s preposterous setup, reciting lines and lines of ludicrous dialogue. Unless you count Samuel L. Jackson’s signature phrase that starts with mother. That’s just Sam being Sam.
Jackson plays President William Alan Moore, now deep into his second term as a lame-duck president and whose approval ratings are in the toilet. His only confidant 30,000 feet above ground is Secret Service Agent Morris (Punisher: War Zone’s Ray Stevenson), who took a bullet for the president; remnants of the bullet are still lodged in the agent, millimeters away from his heart.
Flying over Finland, Air Force One’s radar detects missiles heading their way but someone has disabled their defense capabilities. Oh no! Protocol sees the Secret Service take President Moore into his escape hatch so he can safely eject, while the plane and the fighter jets accompanying Air Force One get blown out of the sky.
Call the next part kismet, serendipity or just dumb coincidence, but the day the president is ejected into the Finnish wilderness is the same day when young Oskari (Onni Tommila) goes out into the forest as a rite of passage to hunt a big game prize to win acceptance by his father and his father’s grizzled band of hunting buddies.
But Oskari and the president aren’t the only ones lurking in the forest. We have Agent Morris, who parachuted to safety, and the terrorist group that shot down the plane and are in pursuit of the most dangerous Big Game there is: the leader of the free world. Their leader is Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus), the psychopath who really intends to stuff and mount the president as a trophy kill.
Meanwhile, in the mean streets of Washington, D.C. (actually, it looks to be an updated version of Dr. Strangelove’s war room), is where the character actors have converged. With too many platitudes to count we have Victor Garber as the vice president; Ted Levine as a decorated general for a branch that is never identified; Felicity Huffman as the CIA director (making it seem like a walk in the park compared to producing an episode of Sports Night), and Jim Broadbent as the brilliant anti-terrorist expert Herbert.
Don’t let Herbert’s disheveled-yes-I-look-like-a-college-professor-while-eating-a-sandwhich look fool you; he is clearly the smartest guy in the room. Through much of the proceedings Herbert seems bored, wishing as if he were home watching Banacek reruns.
Writer-director Jalmari Helander, the filmmaker behind the twisted holiday fantasy fable Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, had his tongue firmly in cheek when mapping out scenarios like Stevenson’s agent jumping out of Air Force One as missiles zig and zag around him, or Oskari and the president making a great escape in a chest freezer.
Big Game is highlighted by laughable twists and B-grade special effects. There are no acting MVP honors to bestow unless counting scenery chewer. Then that is most definitely Broadbent. Jackson is painted pretty weak commander in chief, unlike Harrison “GET OFF MY PLANE!” Ford. But it is damn entertaining in an oh-that-could-never-happen way. Which is okay.
Running on the slim side (87 minutes), the throwback action flick is replete with supplemental material. Just kidding. The only extra is an unrated version of the movie which contains four whole minutes of Samuel L. Jackson yelling his favorite obscenity that he couldn’t in the PG-13 version. (Truth be told, the only MF that gets added is probably the one that is muffled during the climax – it’s like Live Free Die Hard all over again!)
Director: Jalmari Helander
Writer: Jalmari Helander, Petri Jokiranta
Starring: Onni Tommila, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Stevenson, Jim Broadbent, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus
Running Time: 87 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, and some language)