With his bombastic Nazi-slaying action film ‘Sisu,’ Finnish director Jalmari Helander keeps things all in the family. After all, lead actor Jorma Tommila is his brother-in-law and his nephew Onni Tommila is also in the film.
Both of them also starred in Helander’s 2010 feature debut, ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.’ It hasn’t been an extensive career. Since then, there was only one other film (‘Big Game’) that pretty much went straight to video here in America.
How did ‘Sisu’ become a surprise hit at the box office this Spring?
For starters, it was shot in English. Aside from a smattering of subtitled dialogue, the Finnish production was made with an international audience in mind.
Following other hyperviolent films like ‘John Wick’ and prior World War II revenge tales like Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ Lionsgate took a gamble that it would work. And it paid off.
In 1944, German soldiers took a ‘scorched Earth’ approach to their exit from Finland during World War II, destroying entire cities and killing countless people.
Helander introduces us to Aatami (Jorma Tommila). He is trying to lead a quiet, peaceful life mining for gold when he crosses paths with a platoon of Nazi soldiers. An altercation leads to a blood-soaked massacre, but it’s Aatami who is left standing.
We learn that he had once been an elite Finnish soldier, but his family and home were taken from him during the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. He doesn’t take too kindly to the Germans following a similar path and so he goes ballistic.
There’s an extreme level of suspension of disbelief here. Aatami is seemingly invincible during his combat with the Germans and that is part of the fun.
One thing is for sure – this isn’t for the faint of heart. You get everything from knives to the head to exploding horses. It’s gory (and muddy!) to the extreme, but because the targets of Aatami’s wrath are all Nazi shitheads, it’s fun to cheer him on.
If you watch the red band trailer and find yourself even slightly intrigued, it’s safe to say you’re going to love this one. Bonus points: at a brisk 91 minutes, this one doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Our grade: B+
How to Watch ‘Sisu’
‘Sisu‘ is still playing in select theaters across the country. It is also now available as a PVOD (premium video on demand) title from from digital providers, meaning you can currently rent it for $19.99 or buy it for $24.99. Expect a blu-ray and 4K UHD release on July 11 from Lionsgate. Their cable output deal is with Starz, so you can expect it to surface there for streaming this fall.
Looking for more movie recommendations? Check out our May streaming preview!