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Sisu Review

May 1, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Sisu Image Credit: Antti Rastivo/Lionsgate
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Sisu Review  

I saw all of one trailer for the World War II action flick Sisu –it aired right before John Wick Part 4 earlier this year–and then all mention of the movie disappeared from the trace of the Earth. It almost felt like a weird fever dream of an advertisement.

And I mean… I go to the movies A LOT. At least weekly for the last few months! So you would think some of the gory R-rated flicks I’ve seen of late (Scream 6, Renfield, Evil Dead Rise) would remind me that the equally brutal and bloody Sisu was on its way, but… nope. Not a mention of it at all, at least not for my screenings.

Here’s the thing, though: the one trailer I saw preceding John Wick was entirely memorable enough that I did not need pasted with more ads. I knew I wanted to check the movie out. It was intense and promised a wild ride of action.

Sisu is the story of a military veteran in Nazi-allied Finland who has left the war and is trying to make a life for himself. When his efforts to do so cause him to run afoul of some Germans moving across the land en route to Norway, conflict ensues.

I mean… that’s the story. That’s it. That’s what you’ve got for 91 minutes! Buckle up!

Sisu isn’t really here to wow you with its narrative. Hell, it’s lead (Jorma Tommila) is just shy of being a completely silent protagonist. There are some added elements for story wrinkles–the Nazis have a few young women as prisoners that they use for… well, use the worst part of your imagination–but basically you’ve got an hour and a half of Old Man Wick vs Nazis. It’s not complicated! No reason to muddy that pond with details.

That’s not my being clever, by the way. This movie does not shy away whatsoever from John Wick comparisons; it embraces them. One-man military force? Check. He has a Russian nickname that is also the inspiration for a character who turns up in Hellboy comics? Check. Uses gold as currency? Check. Dead family? Check. HAS A PET DOG THAT HE LOVES? Check!

They really just needed to establish a Nazi hotel, and bam! You’ve got the whole John Wick Pizza Supreme.

So a paper-thin plot, a main character who spends 90 minutes of the 91 minute runtime not speaking, and a derivative story. Why are you here for this?



+ The action in this is outstanding. Without spoiling moment after moment for you, I’ll give you just one of the best and leave you to discover the rest yourself: at one point, our hero chucks a landmine at a Nazi’s face. It’s one of those cinematic moments where, when you see it, you realize we actually aren’t doomed as species. We’ve been fumbling our way across the wilderness on this rock floating in space because inevitably, one day, someone was going to film a movie where a really old man explodes a Nazi by hitting him in the face with a landmine.

So really, we’re going to be all right.

+ The damage soak on our hero is tremendous. He survives no fewer than four (4) situations that would 100% kill any human being alive. And yet, this movie just has him keep going because “he refuses to die”. Is the fact that the protagonist of this grounded, real-life movie is essentially superhuman actually an Up? Sure. The John Wick movies gave John a bulletproof suit just so he could look stylish AND have great fight scenes. It’s stupid if you think about it, but just… don’t do that. Then it’s great!

Along the same vein, Sisu has its hero survive being hanged for, like, ten minutes. Why? Because it wanted to. What’s it to you? This isn’t The King’s Speech. It’s an old man killing the shit out of some Nazis. Sometimes with landmines. To the FACE.

The movie gives a half-hearted attempt at a backstory for its hero. He was away at war, and when he came back, his entire family was dead. It’s so irrelevant, you have to wonder why they even bothered. I guess it’s more Wickian inspiration (he’s powered by grief), but I’m talking one line of dialogue and a few close-ups of his wedding ring. This is NOT a focal point of the movie. It’s very extraneous.

I’ve joked a fair bit about the clear influence John Wick had on Sisu, not just in its love of extreme action and fast-paced fighting, but also in, well, virtually every single aspect of its main character. And hey, that’s great! There are much worse movies to ape! But at some point, there are so many similarities that it feels a little… “make your own movie, guys”, if you know what I mean.

I mean, seriously… he loves his dog. Come on!

The final score: review Average
The 411
Sisu is not a meal. Sisu is a cookie. Maybe two cookies. It's easy, it's what you want, it really satisfies you. But it's not going to fill you up, and it's nourishing only in the loosest definition of the word. This is one of those movies that feels more like a collection of "Wouldn't it be cool if we filmed ____" scenes than it does an actual narrative. But you know what? Yes. Yes, it IS cool if they film those scenes. It IS cool that they had an elderly man throw a landmine at a Nazi's face. So as far as cookies go, it's a pretty great one.

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Sisu, Rob Stewart