Midnight Madness: 'Big Game' Pleases Crowd With '80s Vibe

Samuel L. Jackson has to rely on a 13-year-old kid to survive
Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
'Big Game'

It took him three years, but Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander finally got his action movie Big Game to the screen.

The movie premiered to raucous reception at the Midnight Madness sidebar at this year’s Toronto Film Festival with Helander onstage alongside the movie’s young star, Onni Tommila.

Tommila plays a pint-sized 13-year-old boy who has to spend 24 hours alone in the wilderness as part of his village’s rite of passage. His goal is to prove himself by nabbing a deer armed with only a bow, but when Air Force One goes down by devious design and the boy finds the president of the United States, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is still alive, the adventure of a lifetime ensues.

The movie has an Amblin-meets-Joel Silver action movie vibe. There’s a sense of innocence to the adventure but also lots of explosions, eccentric villainy and one-liners that recall the spirit of 1980s action movies. There’s the at-times Spielbergian lighting and a young boy on the cusp of adulthood.

"Someone helped him," says one baddie who is hunting the president. “Someone with a small shoe size."

The audience members weren’t the only ones catching the fun Amblin vibe. Helander said the feeling was deliberate.

"Early Amblin is what I liked as a kid," he said at the movie’s post-screening Q&A. "Nobody is doing it like that — and I was trying to do it like that."

Helander said Jackson was the first to board the movie and credited the actor’s involvement in attracting a cast that also includes Ray Stevenson, Felicity Huffman and Jim Broadbent.

In fact, Helander said that when he was writing one particular part, he had Broadbent in mind. “I never thought in a million years he’d be in it," Helander admitted.

The movie gives Jackson fans what they want — the actor gets to utter his trademarked "motherfer" — but the movie mostly stays clear of swear words. At least, the finished cut did. Helander admitted that "we had to edit and delete quite a lot."

Jackson wasn’t present due to commitments in London but did send in an introductory video, which can be seen below.

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