The title is as plain as the film itself. Sisu – which in Finnish means tenacity, especially in the face of despair – promises a bare-bones thriller based on bare-knuckle action and delivers in the full.
Jalmari Helander’s English-language movie is set during World War II, a time of nasty Nazis, a battle-ravaged land, and at least one money-minded Finn. Aatami (Jorma Tommila) has found a stash of gold that he is determined to protect his bounty at any costs. So what if a Nazi battalion is on his trail?
Aatami – part Boris the Blade and part John Wick – soldiers on. Sisu has the good sense to move swiftly from one mayhem-filled moment to the next. The film efficiently rolls out its surprises, with the impact of squelching guts and exploding entrails enhanced by minimal dialogue. Instead, we are invited to marvel at the ways in which Aatami lives up to his reputation of being immortal.
At least some verbiage is dedicated to Aatami’s back story – a bad idea. We neither want to nor need to know anything about this killing machine. Jorma Tommila’s lack of personality ensures zero interest in Aatami and every bit of attention on his innovative modes of dispatch. Aksel Hennie, as the brutal Bruno who is as pig-headed as Aatami, is at least more fun.
After having exhausted all possibilities but compelled to stretch the film to a 93-minute runtime, Helander allows himself to have a laugh or two. By the time Sisu moves from unlikely survival drama to straight-out farce, we’re nearing the end credits. Full marks for economy, and a few extra points for knowing when the show is over.