Big Game (Blu-ray) (2014)
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||2014|
|Running Time||90:23 (Case: 110)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jalmari Helander|
Samuel L. Jackson
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
†††† By all accounts, Big Game is a relatively inexpensive, direct-to-video action flick, yet itís more skilful than such a description implies, delivered with unique zeal and flavour. Overseen by the same director responsible for the peculiar Finnish export Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, this is a short but entertaining throwback to a simpler era of action films, playing out like a movie from the í80s or í90s, reminiscent of Toy Soldiers and Air Force One. Itís not original in any way, it relishes in genre clichťs, and itís pretty silly on the whole, but itís a mostly effective endeavour thanks to the worthwhile cast, snappy pacing and creative premise, not to mention the plot is enriched by the sense of culture. Be aware, however, that this is definitely an oddity.
†††† The President of the United States, Alan Moore (Samuel L. Jackson), is headed to Finland on official business, travelling on Air Force One under the protection of Secret Service Agent Morris (Ray Stevenson). But the plane is threatened, targeted with missiles by big game hunter Hazar (Mehmet Kurtulus) who has sinister plans for the President. With Moore ejected from the plane in an escape pod, heís left alone in the Finnish wilderness, while Morris reveals himself to be aligned with Hazar. However, the Presidentís saving grace arrives in the form of 13-year-old boy Oskari (Onni Tommila), whoís in the mountains by himself to complete an animal hunt to prove himself worthy as he enters manhood. With Hazar closing in, Oskari and the President stick together, with the young boy determined to guide Moore back to civilisation.
†††† Whereas Rare Exports was bolstered by its complexity and sense of imagination, Big Game is a far simpler endeavour, and a number of complaints can be levelled against the movie on a script and storytelling level. Often times, the picture cuts to the situation room with the Vice President (Victor Garber) and his usual entourage, but this aspect of the narrative is so undercooked and at times jarringly on-the-nose that it comes off like a perfunctory footnote. Thereís a conspiracy angle at play here, but it remains unresolved, and the players involved are at times frustratingly careless. Ultimately, however, itís unclear whether this is the fault of the writing or the editing, as there are reports of a 110-minute cut in existence that might have been severely truncated for pacing reasons. Whatever the case, the film in its finished form is far from perfect.
†††† Fortunately, Big Game succeeds in other areas, showing more care with the main thrust of the story involving the President and Oskari. There is a degree of heart at play here, with Oskariís journey into manhood a conventional but nevertheless effective story angle. It is worth noting, though, that the movie doesnít play out entirely as expected - writer-director Jalmari Helander eschews obvious mismatched buddy comedy antics, and Jacksonís President is not a man of action. To Helanderís credit, he does well by briskly burning through requisite set-up and character development to get into the nitty gritty action stuff. Viewers who enjoy absurd-but-entertaining action flicks of yesteryear should find Big Game fairly satisfying, with Helander showing a deft hand when it comes to the set-pieces. This is a PG-13 movie, and though a full-blooded R-rated movie closer to Air Force One might have worked better, it doesnít knee-cap the picture as much as expected. The budget, though modest by Hollywood standards, is pretty lavish for a Finnish production, thus Big Game is a visually interesting movie, making fantastic use of the eye-catching scenery, even if some of the digital effects shot do look phoney.
†††† Helander has rounded up an impressive ensemble cast of established actors, led by Jackson who is reliably charismatic and watchable. The veteran actor is more grounded than usual, playing it mostly straight, which is appreciated. Alongside him is the young Tommila, a Finnish actor who also appeared in Helanderís Rare Exports. Tommila is not hindered by the usual pitfalls associated with child actors, and at no point does he get on the nerves, which is a miracle. He plays well alongside Jackson and heís believable as Oskari, which works in the actorís favour. As Morris, Stevenson sinks his teeth into a bog-standard villain role, which falls right into the actorís wheelhouse, while Garber is his usual disarming self as the Vice President. Also of note is British actor Jim Broadbent, whoís something of a highlight as usual.
†††† Big Game is short and sweet, clocking in at under 90 minutes. The movie could have done with more narrative meat on its bones, and perhaps a few additional action beats, particularly for the climax which seems to be lacking something to make it a total knockout. The script is not airtight either, and armchair critics will probably find a fair bit to nit-pick. But even if Big Game lacks edge, Helander knows what kind of movie this is, and has created a breezy, easily-watchable action film with humour and excitement. While it wonít work for every taste, I had a good time watching it.
†††† For the record, this Blu-ray release only contains the uncut international version of the movie, whereas the Region A release also contained the shortened version. Suffice it to say, the cut version is not missed in the slightest, and itís good that Madman have included the only edition worth seeing. The back cover incorrectly lists the running time as 110 minutes, but it runs a bit over 90 minutes. As mentioned above, the internet does seem to think a 110-minute version exists, which would be interesting to see, though I cannot find any confirmation.
†††† Madman presents Big Game in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the resulting AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is pretty d*** good, though not amazing. However, considering the origins of the movie, and the budget, itís probably as good as it will ever look, and thatís fine.
†††† Shot digitally, Big Game does lack that spark of HD excellence, with a flat, smooth appearance, without a pop of fine detail to catapult it into the upper echelon of Blu-ray transfers. Some shots do look a bit hazy as well, and some close-ups do look oddly mediocre. It does seem as if some noise reduction was applied, though it might have been applied by the filmmakers in post-production. Anyway, itís not too much of a bother, especially for casual viewers.
†††† On the bright side, colour is consistently pleasing, while edges are usually sharp. The broad strokes of the transfer are fine, as I did not detect any bothersome encoding anomalies. I have seen better digital transfers, but Big Game looks just fine.
†††† There are no subtitles available on this release, save for English subtitles for the segments with foreign dialogue.
†††† Only one track is available on this release: an English/Finnish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is a beauty. Big Game is an action movie, thus it demands a generous, professionally-mixed HD audio track, and it thankfully does not disappoint.
†††† Dialogue mostly comes through the front channels with absolute crispness, while all of the gunshots and explosions are beautifully loud and deafening, making exceptional use of the subwoofer to accentuate their impact. The offbeat score is effectively mixed into the audio track, never overwhelming the dialogue and always doing well to augment excitement and enjoyment.
†††† No complaints from me.
|Surround Channel Use|
†††† Not many extras here.
†††† A large selection of interviews are available, filmed on the set between takes. There is no meaty insight into the production process, which is disappointing. All interviews are in English, with no subtitles. Unfortunately, there is no ďPlay AllĒ function, leaving you to select each interview individually. The snippets are as follows:
†††† Four minutes of raw behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot, without any interviews or commentary. Itís interesting to watch, but far too short.
†††† As advertised.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
† † The Region A release contains absolutely no extras, so that's a win for local. The UK Blu-ray contains cast and crew interviews as well as a VFX Breakdown, with no sign of the behind-the-scenes featurette on our release. Let's call this a draw.
|DVD||PlayStation 4, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||LG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W|