Jamari Helander’s brutal Christmas action movie Rare Exports debuted at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festivals and soon became a cult classic. His newest film, Sisu, playing in the Midnight Madness section at this year’s TIFF, seems destined to have the same fate because it absolutely kicks ass.
The film follows a former commando who finds himself battling against a group of ruthless Nazi soldiers as he attempts to take the bounty of gold he found to the city to sell it. It’s very Rambo-like in that it depicts a single, kickass hero fighting against the forces of evil, but by way of Inglourious Basterds in that it is highly satirical.
Like most great Midnight Madness movies, Sisu has a sh*tton of blood and gore. It’s over-the-top and campy, but that results in it being extraordinarily fun. But the thing is, unlike most other gory movies like this, the gore effects actually look fantastic. Although there is certainly an element of tongue-in-cheek humor to it, the violence is still graphic and visceral.
Helander captures a perfectly retro vibe in the film that feels like part Western and part exploitation flick — the type of movie that you would typically enjoy watching on a VHS tape late at night. Yet despite the fact that it feels so much like an homage to a type of film that was made for much less money, it feels extremely maximalist.
As soon as Sisu hits the gas pedal, it doesn’t let up. It’s the latest in a line of action movies that are essentially one long action sequence, but if that’s the type of thing you are going to complain about, this film obviously isn’t meant for you. However, if you are looking for ninety minutes of straight adrenaline, this is exactly what you are looking for.
The character development is pretty basic, but in all honesty, it doesn’t really demand nuanced character arcs. It’s evil Nazis versus the badass hero that represents the light of freedom. That is all that it takes to get the audience rooting for the protagonist, and not in a jingoistic and xenophobia way like so many other films like this.
Jorma Tommila’s turn in the leading role should go down in the annals of action movie history. He doesn’t have many lines in the film, but it doesn’t matter, because he is so successful at the action that his performance is captivating nonetheless. He has the same commanding screen presence as action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger that allowed them to become bonafide movie stars decades ago.
As the antagonist, Askel Hennie’s performance is a bit more straightforward, as he is the exaggerated Nazi delivering cheesy one-liners, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is entertaining. However, he also doesn’t play the role overly angry, meaning that he does not distract from Tommila’s natural swagger.
Sisu delivers on its premise in a way that is genuinely absurd, but also thoroughly entertaining. It’s one of the best, most exciting action films of the year so far, and is a perfect fit for the TIFF Midnight Madness lineup. In short, this sh*t f*cks, and hard. 9/10.
Sisu is screening at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8-18, 2022.