de facto film reviews 3 stars

After making a splash with genre lovers and horror fans with audacious humor and thrills with Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and Big Game, Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Herlander delivers his first film in nine years with Sisu, which is a Finnish concept of being tenacious and brave. We see this concept play out in this routine revenge narrative that may feel familiar on the outside, but it certainly delivers bone-crunching set-pieces, and the end result is one wildly entertaining revenge saga that will certainly build up a cult following in years to come. Yes, Quentin Tarantino and other like-minded film bros are going to go nuts over this over the course of years. Yes, you will see this film on endless clickbait lists as well as on YouTube from movie commentators that are just going to have a field day with the action and bravura found in this film.

With a requisite prologue that takes place in 1944 Nazi occupied Finland, the revenge saga begins with the film’s protagonist, Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommiila), a miner digging the ground for the search of gold in opening sequences that recall P.T. Anderson’s opening shots of Daniel Plainview searching for oil in There Will Be Blood. He strikes gold and discovers a massive amount of gold with his dog just beneath the subsoil layer in northern Finland. He gets on his horse and heads into town in hopes of cashing the gold in, until he encounters a whole army of SS soldiers traveling through Finland.

Sisu Movie Review: A Kill-Fest So Deliciously Brutal That You Might Question Your Threshold To Watch Ferocious Content Courtesy of Lionsgate

The Nazi soldiers end up discovering the gold Aatami is carrying in his saddlebags, and they attempt to rob him for it. Aatami ends up attacking back and pulverizing the soldiers on the spot. He even kills one in self-defense with a knife going all the way through the skull. The platoon leader Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie) insists that they keep pursuing him because they know times are up for the Nazi Army since the Soviet Army is circling in on them, but we learn that the reason why Aatami is so durable and such a skilled fighter is because he is a former Roque veteran with many kills under his belt.

Meanwhile, Aino (Mimosa Willamo), one of the captured Jewish women in the cargo, explains to the Nazis about Aatami’s past, in which his 300 kills were from him being a one-man army against Russian soldiers after they were responsible for the murder of his family. He is invincible, and when provoked, he just refuses to die, as Aino puts it after one of the soldiers asks if Aatami is immortal. Aatami finds himself in a one-army again.

Sisu Is One Badass Action Film | Film Obsessive Courtesy of Lionsgate 

Aatami has a mythology, and he is characterized nearly like a superhero, and the film plays out like a superhero movie with influences from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, John Wick, Sergio Leone’s The Man with No Name trilogy, and other grindhouse revenge movies. Aatami endures even more punishment than Superman or even Christ in The Passion of the Christ. He is beaten. He is shot at by machine gun cannons. Gets blown up. Gets hanged from a rope. He nearly drowns as he is dodging snipers and bullets in the water. He hangs from a plane with a pickaxe. All he wants is the fruits of his labor back which was wrongfully taken from him.

The performance by Tamilla is quite stoic; it’s a nearly silent performance with only a very minimal amount of dialogue towards the end. But it’s not all machismo either, as Aino is given some femme power in the film that holds some Tarantino touches. He doesn’t rescue the women; he empowers them once he drops off some weaponry for them to take on some Nazi scum. I could easily watch a film about her character and her band of gals getting revenge on a bunch of Nazis as well.

Helander steps outside his comedy-horror comfort zone and proves he has the directing skills to sustain a sensational revenge film that is full of jaw-dropping action sequences and pure cinematic adrenaline. The violent set-pieces are relentless, but they astonish because Helander doubles down on his larger-than-life style, and you really find yourself rooting for the protagonist. It’s a high-octane movie that just gets more gleeful and ferocious as it goes on. If you like well-crafted action films, this is one of the more notable and exhilarating ones as of late.

SISU is now playing in theaters