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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey


In the action movie "Sisu" World War II is on its last legs and the flailing Nazis, we’re told, have adopted a scorched-earth policy as they retreat from Finland, burning down everything in their path.

But then: “Deep in the wilderness of Lapland, there is a man…” And so we meet Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), a former soldier who’s turned his back on the battle. He’s here with just his horse and his dog, living off the land, searching for gold. And soon enough, when a group of Nazis attempt to kill him, we see what he’s capable of. It involves stabbing a knife right through one of their skulls, shooting a shotgun up through another one’s head, and using landmines as explosive Frisbees. So begins 91 minutes of gnarly, pulpy, relentlessly entertaining fun.

Director Jalmari Helander pulls no punches — or kicks or shootings or stabbings — wallowing in excess and rarely taking any of it seriously. As Korpi gets into scrape after scrape, outwitting the Nazis as he goes, slicing and dicing across all manner of terrains, each time escaping seemingly inescapable situations, you increasingly wonder, “Okay, so how the hell is he gonna get out of this one?” And yet he does, each time reality and logic losing little bits of integrity, unapologetically.

Ultimately, it’s all about the effortlessly charismatic Jorma Tommila.

This is a slight but tight epic, dealing in firm absolutes. Korpi, a one-man army, is pitted not just against the Nazis, but against the landscape they’ve devastated.

Your take on Sisu might depend on how much silliness you can stomach — by the time it reaches its Looney Tunes ending, any semblance of reality has gleefully skipped away. But this film knows exactly what it is, and is so much fun. It is fantastically (but not upsettingly) violent, the bountiful dismemberments and impalements heightened by squelchy sound design, and there are brilliant practical effects — it’s a prosthetics playground.

Ultimately, though, it’s all about the effortlessly charismatic Jorma Tommila, a walking snarl, a granite face, a body more scar than skin, the whites of his eyes — sometimes mad, sometimes messianic — shining even brighter when encased in a face caked in blood and mud. He gives us one hell of a time.

Serving up stone-cold multiplex mayhem, Sisu makes no bones about it — this is a film about one mad bastard killing a gazillion Nazis. It’s almost impossible not to love it.

"Sisu” is also outlandishly entertaining, mostly because, contrary to its deeper themes, it isn’t afraid to be nonsensical. The film holds the kind of dumb, action beats and inventive kills, hokey yet fun dialogue that Hollywood used to be so good at producing. It remembers that villains can be wholly evil and that heroes can be bulletproof but still be engaging. "Sisu" doesn’t find the need to explain every plot point and doesn’t mind poking fun at itself. The film creates comfort just by taking you along for the ride.

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