Part Rambo part Wick, SISU is the ultimate action savior the modern genre needs.
In what is shaping up to perhaps be the dawning of a new golden age of action movies, Sisu hits theaters just as John Wick 4’s stellar run at the box office begins to die down. But for ultimate action movie audiences yearning for bloody, over-the-top action, Sisu doesn’t miss a beat — and in many cases kicks things up a notch.
Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, this Finnish period actioner set during the end of World War II follows a mythic John Rambo-esque action hero named Aatami Korpi (played by new action icon Jorma Tommila) who emblems the Finnish concept of “Sisu” and the strength of will needed to single handedly take down an entire battalion of Nazis trying to steal his gold.
UAMC Reviews ‘SISU’ (2023)
For those like myself who might not have been familiar with Helander before Sisu began its media blitz on American action fans (most notably securing trailer spots before John Wick 4 for many theater-goers), his action exploits have not gone completely unnoticed as he has several award-winning shorts and commercials under his belt as well as two features including Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and the 2014 action-adventure Big Game starring Samuel L. Jackson.
However, to say SISU is an explosive introduction to many international audiences would be an understatement. This film hits sooooo hard. I personally heard it word-of-mouth from several friends and often tagged as “the Finnish John Wick.” However, after seeing it I’d certainly call it more of a Finnish First Blood — but the point is the same.
SISU is fun, explosive, hyper-violent and about as ultimate of an action movie as anyone is capable of making for today’s market — and in general it’s just super enjoyable to watch. Clocking in at just over 90 minutes it doesn’t bite off anything more than it can chew, which is honestly just great revenge action from start to finish.
The Finnish John Rambo
The film opens on some beautiful looks of our leading protagonist Aatami Korpi working as a lone gold miner in war-wrecked (yet still beautiful) hills of Lapland, Finland. Our hero finds the gold he was after and begins his short journey home only to come across a large group of Nazi soldiers on their own retreat back home.
Needless to say Korpi wants no trouble, but the Nazis want plenty of it, and it will all ultimately end in an fascinating 75 minutes of brutal carnage and vengeance.
Jorma Tommila’s work as our titular character is really a masterclass in ultimate action movie acting and action. He’s as stoic and unspoken as John Rambo or John Wick, yet despite his older age and more weathered appearance, he causes as much damage as both of them combined.
The Future of Ultimate Action
Without giving away too much of the plot or some of the best sequences, there is a slight element of the supernatural which gives our hero his “Sisu” powers which makes the film feel a bit more arthouse than just popcorn fare, and overall it finds its tone quite early with a bit of humor and fun as the fights and violence never get too serious or gruesome.
And it’s really in that vein that SISU stands out against many of the other ultimate action films of the day as it’s perhaps one of the best examples of how action movies don’t have to be anything more than, well… great action movies.
The stakes never get any higher than they’re laid out in the beginning, and we know the end results of the vengeance by the end of hte first fight sequence, yet the film — and filmmakers — are able to string together a beautifully shot, tightly-choreographed, and smartly designed action revenge flick that would stand up against the best of the rest in the 80s and 90s or today.