Sisu Review: A Unique Blend of Nordic Grit and Over-the-Top Violence


Welcome to the unforgiving yet beautiful wilderness of Lapland where blood, gold, and sisu coalesce into a visual spectacle. In an industry dominated by quip-spouting, spandex-clad superheroes, Jalmari Helander’s Finnish action-comedy, “Sisu”, comes like a gust of fresh Nordic air. It is as if a classic Clint Eastwood film was bathed in a sauna, then left out to cool under the Northern Lights.

“Sisu” is a tale of survival and revenge told with an unapologetic simplicity that belies its thematic depth. Jorma Tommila, the 64-year-old Finnish actor, dons the role of Aatami Korpi, a gold prospector with a past as a legendary commando. His quiet existence in the remote parts of Lapland is disrupted when a Nazi battalion led by SS Obersturmf├╝hrer Bruno Helldorf attempts to steal his gold, setting him on a bloody path of retribution.

The movie’s strength lies in its unadulterated portrayal of violence, executed with a dark, comedic undertone that only amplifies its impact. Each kill Korpi makes is a testament to his grim determination, or sisu, the Finnish concept that encapsulates the film’s spirit. Whether it’s a pickaxe, a hunting knife, or tank tracks, no tool is mundane in Korpi’s hands as he eliminates Nazis in hilariously inventive ways. This is a film that revels in its absurdity, where the protagonist can hitch a ride on an airplane’s underbelly or survive what should be fatal assaults, all while maintaining a poker face that would put Buster Keaton to shame.

However, where the movie shines in its action and comedy, it slightly loses its footing in its narrative development. Helander’s decision to keep the dialogue minimalistic sometimes leaves the audience grappling for contextual understanding. Despite these narrative hiccups, Tommila’s masterful performance as a traumatized yet resilient survivor keeps the audience engaged.

Comparisons to the “John Wick” series are inevitable, given the film’s focus on a seemingly unstoppable protagonist fueled by vengeance. But “Sisu” distinguishes itself with its unique cultural specificity, and its playful nudge at American franchises by likening Korpi more to Russian folklore’s Koschei the Deathless than to Baba Yaga, a.k.a John Wick. It’s this embrace of its Finnish roots, coupled with a tongue-in-cheek approach to violence, that sets “Sisu” apart.

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“Sisu” is a delightful mix of violence, humor, and cultural pride. It’s an action-comedy that doesn’t shy away from brutality, yet it manages to elicit laughter amidst the bloodshed. While it lacks the narrative finesse of some of its genre counterparts, its unique style and compelling performance by Tommila make it a notable entry into the action genre. A bloody-minded tribute to Finnish resilience!

RATING: 4 out of 5.

Sisu is now playing in theaters.

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