Lionsgate? That’s a big Hollywood player for an Indie. But its trailer and promotional materials had come to me from eg-pr.com (a film and TV PR agency) who regularly send me pre-release, creative Indie films, a number of which have reviewed.
I watched the trailer mesmerized: it’s 1944, the Second World War coming to a close; a truly grizzled old man (Atami), prospecting for gold in a barren Finish wasteland, by himself if you don’t count his dog and horse; Nazis (very bad guys), with a tank and lots of soldiers, in small and large groups are out to menace civilization, no less try to take from Atami his sizable bounty of gold (bad idea) and abduct six young women for the sex trade (an even worse thing to do). The Nazi soldiers continuously will be the fodder for a body count of Nazis that rivals Rambo, systematically eliminated using only the tools of a prospector’s trade, and his exceedingly able use of brains, brawn, and wicked speed.
Atami (Jorma Tommila) kept what was his, freed the women, and literally stopped evil in its tracks. Justice was served in straightforward ways by a solo judge, jury, and executioner, also called vigilante justice.
Those are the ingredients of a box office smash, I thought. Though uncertain without Stallone, Cruise, Willis, Stratham, Keanu, Jennifer Lawrence, or the like. But Lionsgate? Yes, check their website: The Hunger Games, Rambo(!), The Weapon, Operation Fortune, John Wick, Saw, Blair Witch, Plane, the list goes on.
SISU? The story yes. But Mr.Tommila, the brilliantly fierce, lead actor, will need to give us an occasional smile or satisfied grin, a touch of irony, and a few clever and cutting asides to join the roster of celebrities with star power.
Movie ticket sales attest to not only a US but a global appetite for retribution served raw, in the service of a personally held, moral code: the evidence is bountiful on the silver screen and in the vast holdings of streaming services. I have yet to tire of the ongoing flow of justice hero tales; they do have staying power when we consider the hero tales of Ancient Greece and the mythology they drew upon.
A friend came over to view the film with me. A Frenchman with a background in media, who loves films. We pressed the link and settled in, though with no popcorn.
Off I went, absorbed by Atami’s unremitting, lethal confrontations with the bad guys and his superhuman capacity to endure mortal wounds, even strangulation - to not only stay alive but remain a WMD (weapon of mass destruction).
My friend, however, was restless as we watched. After the credits I asked him why. He said he tired of the non-stop action and had some difficulty with how preposterous were some of the hero’s scenes where he stayed alive despite lethal injuries. I could understand his wearing out from the endless and abundant violent scenes. But when it came to preposterous, he didn’t have trouble with the dubious stunts of a gaggle of superhero characters, SciFi cosmic scenes and characters, and the untouched survivors in films of global destruction. But he did with SISU.
That had me say, I thought neither the actors, at their best, nor the director (Jalmali Helander), could breathe enough life into the screenplay. I don’t know if he bought my analysis. Though he plainly made clear that he would join me in another trip down Hollywood’s lanes, though popcorn and candy could help.