Jalmari Helander’s Sisu is the early contender for the most disappointing movie of the year, and it had all the potential in the world to be incredible. Its simple story of a former Winter War veteran (Jorma Tommila) mining for gold and finding a large sum of nuggets only to be intercepted by Nazis seems like the golden (pun intended, of course) opportunity for Helander to craft a bloody, gory, and satisfying actioner where one [silent] man takes down Nazis in glorious fashion. While this is exactly what the movie has going for, it is, unfortunately, neither exciting nor as satisfying as you think it will be.
Sisu‘s Action Sequences Lack Impact
I think this may be one of my most controversial opinions yet: There isn’t a single memorable action sequence in Sisu.
They all lack the impact and the visual skill that make the best action blockbusters (and exploitation films) feel cathartic and kinetic. Sure, there are some impressive bouts of gore here and there (a sequence involving mines is arguably the highlight of the whole affair).
However, it’s nowhere near as gory and rambunctious as the Midnight Madness crowd convinced you it was. It’s a relatively tame “gory” movie that, whenever it has the opportunity to go overboard with gore and copious amounts of blood (à la Evil Dead Rise), it decides to cut away from it instead.
Take a rather elaborate chase scene between our protagonist and the Nazis. Some disposable Nazis get thrown on the road, where a moving tank approaches them. Here’s an opportunity to show a Nazi getting what he deserves: trampled to the ground by the tank in a beautifully gory fashion (with some impressive practical effects). But the movie doesn’t do that: it cuts away from the gore and does it continuously.
I understand that there could be a rating issue with the movie. However, Evil Dead Rise came out last week and truly pushed the boundaries of what could be considered “acceptable” gore and what torture porn can look like in a mainstream film. You can’t possibly tell me that a sequence I’ve outlined would be as gory as chewing a piece of glass and having the stuck piece of glass come out of your throat, as found in Evil Dead Rise.
Sisu‘s Structure is Far Too Conventional
Now it wouldn’t have bothered me if the story of Sisu was conventional, if the action was good. Unfortunately, since it fails to craft compelling action and a memorable antagonist, Sisu feels far too conventional for its own good. Aksel Hennie plays the Nazi general on the hunt for the Gold, which he believes will lead him to a better life after World War II ends and the path to avoid all crimes he will be charged for. Hennie plays the general in an amazingly caricatural glee. As an actor, he’s terrific and knows exactly what he has to do to make his character as despicable as possible.
However, as a character, he’s painfully forgettable. The same can be said for a group of abducted women who fight back after the Winter War veteran hands them a pair of guns. The 91-minute runtime ensures that we will barely spend time with any side characters, therefore blunting any attempt at character development. When the women eventually fight back and kill a bunch of Nazis, the emotional impact should feel ultra-satisfying. However, because we spend so little time with them, it feels completely mindless and devoid of any emotional connection with them.
Sure, the antagonists are designed to be mindless. However, I believe more meat around the bone should’ve definitely made the movie better, especially regarding its quasi-mute protagonist. Tommila plays the protagonist with enough brute force to make him as believable and compelling as John Wick and Mad Max. However, since the action scenes aren’t as impressive as both of these films and don’t make the best of Tommila’s stuntwork, his character feels like a barely-developed flesh of what could be an iconic character.
That’s essentially the crux of Sisu: a slew of good ideas blended into a mindless movie. Since it’s mercifully short, it’ll be relatively easy to forget the movie after it’s over. I can see why some audience members loved it: it provides competent action but nowhere near the level of total carnage the reviews and trailers make it out to be.
Its characters are also terribly uninteresting. They’re either walking and talking clichés or barely developed to be named “characters.” Even John Wick had more development than Sisu‘s protagonist, and most of his lines in John Wick: Chapter 4 are variations of “Yeah.” You don’t need to talk to be a compelling protagonist, but you need good writing to bring you to that level.
Sisu is ultimately nothing more than a shell of a good movie without the direction needed to make it soar.
Sisu is now playing in theaters. What did you think of the movie? Do you agree with the review, or are you more in line with the consensus? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on social media!