Remember the 80’s PG-13 rating? I remember it well and I miss it so. The 80’s PG-13 rating simply meant that any Action Movie that was rated such didn’t have that much swearing, blood and/or sex when compared to the MAN Fests known as DIE HARD and THE TERMINATOR. Movies like INDIANA JONES got this rating and made many a childhood (including that of yours truly) great because, obviously, the lack of blood and the word “fuck” in a movie where a bunch of dudes punched other dudes for a living meant that these Action Movies were just perfect for growing kids.
And then those movies died.
Somewhere in the decades of the 2000’s up until now, the PG-13 rating became synonymous to “Watered Down Bullshit” instead of the “Less Crass MAN Fest” that many of my generation miss, forcing people like myself to sloth through immature frat-boy level garbage like THE EXPENDABLES 3 and that fucking god-horrid ROBOCOP remake when we needed the adrenaline fix that only a good Action Movie could provide. Granted, Liam Neeson was there to save the day once in a while with TAKEN and RUN ALL NIGHT but a good majority of his Action Movies are just shitty lazy copies of the original TAKEN.
And that’s why BIG GAME (2015) wasn’t just a fun movie, it was a motherfucking godsend. First of all, there are no illusions here, the story is something straight out of the 80’s and by that I mean it’s campy as fuck. Story goes that a young Finnish boy partakes in his family tradition of going on the most dangerous puberty rites since circumcision without any anesthetic aid and crosses paths with the President of the United States of America, whose life is in danger as he’s being hunted down by assassins who brought down Air Force One. Yeah. Campy as fuck and something right out of the HOME ALONE time period where kids could do fuck next to ANYTHING, including beating the living shit out of dumbass terrorists by using cutesy whimsical traps.
But even with a very simple premise, BIG GAME successfully pulls off an old-school PG-13 Action Movie that’s as entertaining and exciting as that sentence implies. Like its 80’s predecessors, the only reason why this movie got the PG-13 rating was because of the complete lack of blood and heavy swearing, meaning none of the adrenaline and intensity was sacrificed in the name of of pandering towards Moral Guardians. The story provides the perfect setup for a pair of characters who bond and grow through their dangerous fight for survival in an unforgiving forest swarming with would-be assassins, leading to some cool action scenes. Since this is a good case of the “Show Don’t Tell” kind of storytelling, not much exposition outside of what’s really necessary is given for the two stars but it’s more than enough to care for them and root for them up until the end. The simple story does more than what’s expected of it thanks to a couple of twists and turns that keep the pacing up and running even during the parts where the cast takes some “down time” to catch their breaths and have some heartfelt discussions about their pasts.
Even more surprising for what could be considered to be a Coming-of-Age movie is the level of maturity here. With a premise such as the one presented in BIG GAME, one would expect bungling comedic terrorists, a snarky and street smart child star and a bunch of annoying stereotypes to litter the show but instead of lowering the audiences’ intellect, BIG GAME presents its characters and story in a more realistic and grounded way. There are no stupid traps made out of toys while terrorists actually shoot people this time around instead of engaging in stupid banter, showing just what movies from the old days BIG GAME used as reference. Yes, there’s a scene in here where the infamous “Nuke The Fridge” incident from KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is homaged frame-for-frame but the fact that BIG GAME pulled off said tribute in a manner cohesive to its overall story shows signs of maturity and competence that the aforementioned INDIANA JONES movie lacked.
BIG GAME felt like meeting an old childhood friend who obviously matured and grew up with the passage of time but this friend still knows how to have a good fun time. This is the kind of movie that knows exactly what it is and balances the serious elements alongside the comic entertainment, never forgetting that you need both to make a good Action Movie. There is no doubt that this movie won’t be heralded as the “comeback” of the Action Movie nor will it be seen in lists that tally the greatest Action Movies ever made but it is definitely a fun and exciting Action ride that has some surprising depth and story to it. As someone who misses Action Movies as fun and daring as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the movie BIG GAME wasn’t just a fun watch but it was also a great callback to better Action days.
And as a guy who worships Samuel L. Jackson and watches any movie of his (including the fucking shitty KITE live-action adaptation), seeing him play the President of the United States was a motherfucking dream come true.
We need more Pres. Samuel L. Jackson.