“Sisu” is directed by Jalmari Helander (Big Game, Rare Experts) and stars Jorma Tomilla (The Christmas Party, Big Game), Aksel Hennie (Hercules, The Martian), Jack Doolan (The Boys, The Green Green Grass), and Mimosa Williamo (Headfirst, Lake Bodom). Set during the Lapland War, this film is about an ex-soldier who finds gold and must fend off Nazis on his journey into the city.
Some of the biggest studios today like Disney and Universal mostly rely on popular IP to keep their ships afloat. Lionsgate, while not being as big as those two, has done the same to respectable results. If you look at titles like “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga,” and “John Wick,” you would notice that these franchises have continued to receive sequels due to their popularity and recognition. Obviously with the first two, it helps when they are based on preexisting books. But “John Wick” is an interesting case where even a by the numbers movie with not the biggest, or smallest, of budgets can lead to a series of films that continues to receive praise from action junkies. While “The Hunger Games” is coming back and more of the “John Wick” universe is set to be unveiled in various stories, Lionsgate would benefit from a new franchise after “John Wick: Chapter 4.” After seeing one of the studio’s latest projects, “Sisu,” it has potential for expansion. That said, if I were not doing Scene Before, I would have mixed thoughts as to seeing another one of these movies if it were greenlit. I say this because I really enjoyed the movie, minus certain aspects that stuck out like a sore thumb.
This movie seems to be inspired by the “John Wick” formula. It centers around a man who happens to have a connection with a dog, and people attempt to get in his way. Therefore, he must stop them in perhaps the most diabolical, slickest way he can imagine. While it is a remix, I am not complaining because seeing Aatami do what he does best is satisfying to watch. There are some kills in this film that honestly rival a “Deadpool” movie or a Tarantino flick. While many action movies in recent years such as “Nobody,” “Wrath of Man,” or “Bullet Train” have a flair to them that reminds me of “John Wick” in some way, “Sisu” stands out because it is set long before those films. It is set during World War II, specifically through the Lapland War, where the rivals are Finland and Nazi Germany. If you are having trouble figuring out which side is represented as good and bad according to this movie, then you probably do not know where the title of this movie comes from.
That said, the title of this movie is quite fitting for the main protagonist of Aatami, because throughout the movie, his look comes off as someone who has seen everything that there is to see, and much of it was not good. And even in moments where he may look innocent, he will subvert expectations anyone had of him being a softie. We do not learn a textbook’s worth of information about Aatami, but we also learn enough to appreciate him. It hits the Goldilocks zone. All we learn is that he needs to get from point A to point B, with gold. Of course, since the opposition is Nazis, it makes it that much simpler to root for him.
“Sisu” is perfectly paced. Yes, there is a short runtime that may help some people, but that is not what I am necessarily pointing to. Within that short runtime, the film does very little, but it makes the most of its minimalistic nature. There are not too many characters, the plot is simple yet effective, and dialogue appears to be used sparingly. Speaking of small, the film cost €6 million (approx. $6.56 million) to make. This movie does a lot with that small budget, and despite the modest cost, it sometimes feels as big as some notable modern action blockbusters. The overall look, design, and feel of the film are perfect.
My biggest complaint with “Sisu” is that we get to a point in the movie, specifically during the third act, where I am having trouble believing anything that is happening. There are some good movies that exist that bend reality a bit such as some of the “Fast & Furious” sequels, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” There are things in those movies that I would never expect to happen in real life, but they convince me that within the rules of their respective universes that they could be pulled off in that setting. There is something towards the end of “Sisu” that feels so off that it almost ruined the movie for me. Granted, the movie has a brilliant first half so of course I am going to praise it. The reason is because even though this movie jumps the shark quite a bit, it felt like it had a limit. And I know that this is an original film, this is not a spinoff or sequel that builds off of rules that already exist. But the movie flicked like a lightswitch. It went from ridiculous fun to colossal stupidity in a split second. It makes Dom Toretto’s Tarzan swing in “F9: the Fast Saga” feel real. I am not even joking.
This may sound like I hate the movie. I do not. If you scrolled down to this or the last paragraph, you may have missed my recent praise for it. I just think if I were in charge of the script I would have changed this one scene dramatically. There are a lot of other moments that had me laughing, gagging, or dropping my jaw with excitement. Much like the “John Wick” franchise, there are some highlight kills in this film for me that I continue to think about to this day. I recommend going to see this movie with a couple friends, maybe make it a guys night out. “Sisu” may take inspiration from other action flicks, but it does enough to make it its own thing. That said, if you do not like heavy violence or gore, you might want to sit this one out. Just a warning.
In the end, despite my one big complaint regarding “Sisu,” I have zero regrets having seen it. If Lionsgate or the other companies behind this movie wanted to recreate one of their most popular ideas but put it in World War II, they did so with excellence. It is a film that starts rather quiet, but its obnoxiousness increases with time. Sometimes for good, other times for bad. The film also supports the notion that if you make Nazis the villain, it is all the more satisfying to see a protagonist like Aatami potentially triumph. If I have any other recommendations, avoid the trailer. Don’t get me wrong. I watched the trailer for “Sisu” before going to see it. I think it is a good trailer. But I think this is one of those movies that is probably best viewed with a clean slate. It might increase some shock value. It is up to you, but if you want my two cents, that is what I have to give. Speaking of my two cents, I am going to give “Sisu” a 7/10.
“Sisu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3!” And if you want even more upcoming content, I will also soon be talking about the new horror comedy “Renfield.” I waited a bit to watch this movie, but as to whether it is worth the wait, is a question that will be answered soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sisu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie you like that has an ending that almost ruins it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!