The Gory, Darkly Comic Sisu is Finn John Wick

Director: Jalmari Helander
Writer: Jalmari Helander
Cast: Mimosa Willamo, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Jorma Tommila

First, Sisu is a patchwork of movies you’ve seen before. its indescribable, Nobody-esque (2021) protagonist engages in joyful Nazi mayhem reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino, while being exalted to the mythic status of a John Wick (in a cheeky counter to the franchise, the dog even survives this time). And yet, somewhere between writer-director Jalmari Helander’s evocative imagery, balletic camera movements, and skill at blurring the line between fight sequence and physical comedy, this Finnish film weaves a new thread with worn threads. . Old tropes are steeped in fresh blood, even as gallons of it spill, splatter, and splatter across the screen.

It’s 1944 and old Korpi (Jorma Tommila) pans for gold in the Lapland wilderness that stretches for miles but still can’t put enough distance between him and WWII. The Nazi planes still hover above his head, even though his eyes remain firmly fixed on the ground. It’s only a matter of time before German soldiers discover its loot and attempt to seize it themselves, at which point the film flips the hunter-hunted scenario through a series of increasingly inventive settings. , disturbed and bloody. Korpi, revealed to be a former “lonely death squad,” delivers on that promise again and again. And even. And even.

The initial wide shots of the lush landscape gradually incite the realization that it contains no place to hide, raising the stakes. It also sets up thrilling fights in which Korpi uses his knowledge of the natural terrain to his advantage – in a sequence that evokes Jaws (1975), Nazis navigating a river disappear underwater in quick succession and reappear as bright red hues on the surface. Helander delights in squeezing his protagonist into difficult places, narratively and visually, propelling him down the path of greatest resistance in search of an exit.

These bursts of action are punctuated with direct intertitles such as “The Gold” and “The Nazis” that let the audience know exactly what each chapter’s focus is. For all its frenetic energy, however, vast swaths of the film unfold with little to no dialogue. The silences are eerie, not only sustaining the air of anticipation, but also drawing attention to the intermittent use of sound, such as the accelerated clop-clop of Korpi’s horse’s hooves as it passes rows of trees. men hung up and left for dead by the Nazis. Visual flourishes bring an otherwise simple narrative to life. Korpi’s discovery of the gold deposits is framed as an act of worship, the warm light of the metal reflected in his face, his gaze of utter reverence, a choral score.

Sisu is 90 minutes of a good time, spinning even as its acting gets more outrageous, and its narrative twists don’t always mesh well. A simple story filled with countless references to other movies would be a tough sell for any other movie. But at the time Sisu rushes to its (literal) earth-shattering climax, the sheer audacity with which it operates is worth the price of admission.

Daniel K. Denny