A knife jammed completely through your skull from ear to ear. An land mine expertly lobbed onto your face. Your arm helplessly strapped to a bomb, followed by the rest of you exiting a bomb bay door towards the welcoming ground below.
These are just a few of the inventive ways in which an unsuspecting Nazi may meet his demise, should he run afoul of the ominously silent Finnish gold prospector Aatami Korpi. Yes, the best advice a goose-stepping, Hitler-adoring Aryan could receive in this fictional Tarantino-wannabe of a film would be to run in the other fucking direction…and quickly.
This is the situation in “Sisu” (watch trailer), a sparsely written, yet robust-feeling excuse for humorously graphic violence and occasionally banal escapism. Jorma Tommila plays the film’s protagonist, a physically and emotionally scarred Finnish World War II veteran who has lost everything, only to find some semblance of meaning when he discovers a rich deposit of gold in the middle of nowhere. On his way to the nearest town to cash in his windfall, he crosses paths with several swaths of retreating Nazi forces, the beady-eyes meanies going scorched earth on every village and soul they encounter as global defeat rapidly approaches.
What happens next is a humorously implausible combination of dancing land mines, nail-biting escapes, flesh-tearing bullet wounds, imaginatively dismembered bodies, and a nose-first plane crash, all of which barely register as minor inconveniences for our hero.
It’s not that Korpi can’t be killed, but rather that, as one character says, “he refuses to die.” Enjoy that reality or don’t (admittedly, it wore a little thin for this reviewer at times), but understand it as fact and surrender to the carnage that accompanies it.
At an efficient 90 minutes in length, “Sisu” wastes no time in diving right into the guts of the story — unfortunate pun intended. Within minutes, staccato machine gun fire fills the air, impossible amounts of blood spews to and fro, and body parts are flying through the air as if Cirque du Soleil was in town. The pace isn’t as frenetic as one might expect from watching the delightfully bombastic trailer, but there is a smooth sense of order to the chaos that unfolds during Korpi’s odyssey.
There is little doubt that Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” inspired the tone and sheer outrageousness of “Sisu,” though the latter lacks the depth, cleverness, and cohesion of the former. Thankfully, director and writer Jalmari Helander avoids Tarantino’s unfortunate penchant for inserting tedious blocks of pointless dialogue that bog down the fun. In fact, if there are more than 500 words in total uttered from opening to closing credits, I’d be blown away.
All in all, “Sisu” is an enjoyable, psychotically violent romp through the barren Finnish countryside. It may leave you wanting a little something more, but of what exactly you may not know. Here’s to hoping it’s not the Nazis coming out on top.