Combustible Celluloid Review - Sisu (2023), Jalmari Helander, Jalmari Helander, Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila
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With: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila
Written by: Jalmari Helander
Directed by: Jalmari Helander
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, gore and language
Running Time: 91
Date: 04/28/2023

Sisu (2023)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Gold Trigger

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This "one-man army" movie from Finland readily recalls other, similar genre entries, but it's superbly crafted in a stripped-down, smartly-paced fashion, exceedingly gory, and wildly entertaining.

Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) is a solitary miner who discovers a large vein of gold. He cleans himself up, packs up camp, and begins riding his horse into town. Unfortunately, it's 1944 in Finland, and he comes across a platoon of Nazis.

They quickly discover the true nature of his cargo, and attempt to steal it. But Korpi easily dispatches five men and keeps on going. The Nazi leader (Aksel Hennie) decides to keep pursuing him, even after he receives the warning that Korpi — a former rogue soldier with more than 300 kills — is not to be trifled with.

It's easy to think of John Wick, Rambo, Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills, and Bob Odenkirk's Nobody (as well as Brad Pitt's Nazi-killin' Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds) while watching the incredible, grizzled Aatami Korpi do his thing in Sisu. (The opening crawl informs us that the title is a Finnish word that can't be directly translated, but means something like "unstoppable courage.")

But he quickly emerges as his own character. While he's as scant as a character can get — he speaks maybe 11 words in the entire movie — we still know precisely who he is through his deliberate actions. And we want to root for him. For example, the Nazi platoon carries six women prisoners in the back of one of their trucks, and when the time comes, Korpi doesn't merely rescue them, he empowers them, enabling them to rescue themselves.

Writer/director Jalmari Helander (of Rare Exports: A Christmas Story and Big Game) keeps inventing substantial challenges for his hero that require quick thinking, and, at only 91 minutes, Sisu uses them to establish the perfect pace, quitting just while it's ahead. A bold Morricone-like score by Juri Seppä and Tuomas Wäinölä is the icing on the cake.

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