Indy Film Fest 2023: Sisu – Movie Review


  • Director: Jalmari Helander
  • Writer: Jalmari Helander
  • Starring: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo

Grade: C+

You’ll see a lot of comparisons to John Wick in the reviews and promotional material for Sisu. These days, you see a lot of similar comparisons when virtually any non-superhero action film is released. More often than not, this can be decoded as an action film with impressive physical stunts, but the similarities generally end there. Just as Taken spawned a multitude of imitators in the wake of its success, the same can be said for the John Wick films. But what makes John Wick special isn’t just its commitment to doing the craziest stunts possible at any given moment; it’s the world-building, and the way Chad Stahelski stacks the rules within that universe against John Wick.

All of this is to say that labeling Sisu as akin to John Wick is a mistake. Yes, both films star a man who simply wants to be left alone with his dog, and yes, both films feature their heroes defying death at every turn to achieve their goal. The action in Sisu is solid, and several moments will likely have you squirming in your seat with their grotesqueries. But the major failing of this film is its plot, a bare-bones revenge thriller that could easily stand to gain a few pounds.

Sisu; Lionsgate

The plot is this: in the final days of World War II, a solitary Polish man named Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) pans for gold in the Polish countryside. With German defeat imminent, the few remaining Nazis scour the land and create as much chaos as possible. After Korpi finds a massive vein of gold, he heads back to town to cash in, but on the way, he runs into a German convoy led by Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie), who set out to kill him and their POWs. Little do they know the man is a bit of an urban legend, rumored to be immortal, and the Nazis find that out the hard way.

The kills are creative, and Tommila does the job exceptionally well, but the script – written by Jalmari Helander, who also directs – barely gives us a reason to root for Korpi beyond defeating his enemies. In case you need reminding, they’re Nazis, so you’re inherently supposed to root against them. Long stretches of the film are dialogue-less – long stretches that could have been spent building up the hero’s backstory or motivations. Mimosa Willamo stands out as the leader of the women POWs, but she doesn’t leave a long lasting impression after the credits roll.

Sisu; Lionsgate

If all you want is a quick jolt of international action featuring a troop of Nazis getting creatively blown up, mutilated, and everything else you can think of, you could do worse than Sisu. Helander is a competent action director, showcasing the physicality of Tommila and the surrounding cast, so perhaps with the right screenplay, he could be a new face to look out for. But if you’re looking for more substantial action cinema after seeing so many comparisons to John Wick, you’ll likely be disappointed. It’s been almost a month since the first and only time I’ve seen John Wick: Chapter 4, and there are moments that still remain fresh in my mind – including some of the quieter, non-action moments. It’s been less than a week since I’ve seen Sisu, and I’m struggling to do the same.

Sisu was screened as part of the 2023 Indy Film Fest. The film will be available in theaters nationwide on April 28.


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