Film review: Big Game (12A)***

Onni Tommila and Samuel L Jackson in Big Game
Onni Tommila and Samuel L Jackson in Big Game
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Writer-director Jalmari Helander reunites the cast of his 2010 hit Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale for this gung-ho action thriller, which pits an embattled President of the United States against a team of heavily armed terrorists in the forests of northern Finland.

The testosterone-fuelled spirit of Sylvester Stallone’s 1993 blockbuster Cliffhanger is alive and exceedingly well in Big Game, albeit on a more modest budget and threaded with mordant humour.

Refreshingly, the hero of this explosion-filled 90 minutes isn’t a muscle-bound fighting machine but a weedy 13-year-old boy on an awkward transition into manhood.

Helander’s script is peppered with cute one-liners like when the US officials learn that a homing beacon, which was supposed to pinpoint the statesman’s location, has malfunctioned.

‘We lost our President like a set of car keys?’ deadpans an advisor.

Oskari (Onni Tommila) is poised to turn 13 and must follow in the footsteps of his proud father Tapio (Jorma Tommila) by venturing into the wilderness alone to bring down a deer with his trusty bow and arrow.

‘The boy has one day and one night to find out what kind of man he is,’ confirms community elder Hamara (Risto Salmi), who is convinced that weakling Oskari will fail the initiation.

Within hours of embarking on his solitary quest, Oskari witnesses the crash of Air Force One and stumbles upon the escape pod of the US President, William Allen Moore (Samuel L Jackson).

It transpires that Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus), the psychopathic illegitimate son of one of the richest sheikhs in the Gulf, has brought down the plane in order to hunt the most powerful western politician on the planet.

Young Oskari is the only thing standing between Hazar and his stuffed presidential trophy.

Meanwhile, in the Emergency Command and Control Vault, General Underwood (Ted Levine) briefs the Vice President (Victor Garber), Director of the CIA (Felicity Huffman) and veteran advisor Herbert (Jim Broadbent) on the attack.

‘We think this is the most serious terrorist action since 9/11,’ he intones sombrely.

Big Game is a muscular romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously, including one spectacular set piece involving a household appliance tumbling down a mountainside.

Helander subverts the usual unabashed American patriotism and isn’t afraid to grant the bad guys their victories too.

Supporting roles are played to the hilt as well.

Action scenes are delivered with sufficient bombast to warrant a release on the big screen before Big Game inevitably gains an ardent following on the home formats.