Sisu Review: Too Angry to Die

by J.R. Waugh
Sisu Review
Image: Lionsgate

Sisu is a special reminder for movie viewers everywhere about the importance of a film being viewed on the big screen. It’s more than a typical cut-and-dry WWII action film, which would typically have a balance of drama and violence, while this film forgoes the heavy dialogue to create a bombastic, often hilarious experience. It’s a special film meant to be enjoyed by a crowd, whether or not you’re squeamish about violence, and you’ll see why.

Vengeance is Golden

Image: Lionsgate

Sisu is a revenge action film with elements of dark comedy about a Finnish prospector who strikes gold at precisely the wrong moment, when Nazis being driven out of Finland catch him in their sights. The setting is during the Lapland War in 1944, when the Finnish army, under Soviet pressure, drove the Nazis out of their homeland.

The film borrows many elements from the first John Wick film, down to the protagonist Aatami Korpi’s adorable canine companion. But it feels like so much more, with the themes having an oddly Tarantino-esque pastiche woven throughout its plot and storytelling, down to title cards and its handling of outrageous, gratuitous, fantastic violence.

This comes into play when a group of Nazis flees the country, but not without destroying settlements, attacking innocents, and (heavily implicitly) raping women along their retreat path. They encounter Korpi, thinking little of him at first until they discover how much gold he has unearthed in his excavations, and decide to take it by force.

This was a mistake, as Korpi dispatches his attackers with ruthless efficiency for daring to take what is rightfully his. For Aatami Korpi, vengeance is golden, and nothing comes between him and his gold.

Too Angry to Die

Image: Lionsgate

What ensues is a deadly pursuit by the Nazis, led by SS officer Bruno Helldorf against this individual. They discover his identity, learning about his past in the Winter War, having lost his family, and embodying the surreal concept of “Sisu” in Finnish culture. Despite being described as impossible to put into English terms (twice!) they then put it into English terms, referring to a level of unstoppable tenacity similar to the “Too Angry to Die” or “Unstoppable Rage” trope.

This, for the fan community going to see the show, essentially means that Commander Korpi is thusly inducted into the ranks of other unstoppable heroes like the Hulk, Guts from Berserk, and Godzilla. The John Wick vibes are more tongue-in-cheek here, where his backstory is revealed in a Baba Yaga-style monologue. The story, instead of feeling derivative due to this parallel, is offset by the comedic timing of how he kills his enemies, making this just different enough to feel fresh and extremely fun.

Striking Comedy Gold

It feels so odd to see the content of this film and acknowledge just how much of it is incredibly funny. There are numerous points where he kills Nazis to the point of them essentially exploding like balloons full of meat and blood in ways that could have come off as excessive, but the execution is superb. It helps that the victims are Nazis, allowing for guilt-free entertainment for the viewers, where entire landmines are thrown at their faces, to the roaring laughter of the audience.

This is where the film demonstrates its key value as a cinematic experience. It is best enjoyed by a crowd of horror and comedy fans for its gratuitous violence, along with just a few squeamish folks for the uncomfortable moments. This includes fights like the climactic final battle, which feels like how a Fortnite player would hijack a moving vehicle if they had nothing other than their starting pickaxe. It also includes moments where a wounded Korpi must maim himself further to maintain the illusion that he has finally been killed, justifiably getting some uncomfortable groans from the audience.

I was fortunate enough to get to screen this as the second opening film of the Glasgow FrightFest in 2023, an event full of exactly this mixture of viewers. The laughs were plentiful and filled the auditorium, in a way that felt justified and perfectly tailored to the viewer; however, this was more a testament to the quality of the film, and just how well it handled tone.

A Film Which Thrives on Absurdity

Image: Lionsgate

Sisu has numerous points worth noting throughout the film that reminds viewers that they don’t need it to become a tie-in to a cinematic universe or be overly cerebral to be a great cinematic experience. There are many ways in which it feels profoundly aware of the legacy of similar films, as it pays homage, either intentionally or not while creating its legend. Such points include:

  • A Mad Max: Fury Road vibe to Bruno’s Nazis, keeping several female captives who seize their moment and turn the tables against their captors.
  • Mimosa Willamo, who portrays Aino, delivers an empowered performance of a woman seizing back her power against monstrous foes.
  • A strangely Spaghetti Western feel to an otherwise obviously WWII-themed film, feeling like a blend of Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds.
  • The film feels gorgeously shot, and relentlessly gritty to feel like an interesting change-up from the otherwise sophisticated, clean presentation of John Wick.

This is not to say the film has its downsides. For those expecting more, it’s painfully, relentlessly simplistic with its plot, about a man who finds gold and fights to the death to keep it. Even the ending is hilariously simple, with Korpi uttering a fantastic one-liner to cap it off.

In many ways, it feels like it could have been just a dumb ’80s revenge flick, but the secret was that it never took itself too seriously, and remained self-aware, pop culture-savvy. Sisu is a film that thrives on absurdity, with just enough historical context to make sense. This, along with some magic realism, allows viewers to shut off their brains a bit and enjoy the glorious, bloody romp on the silver screen.

- This article was updated on May 2nd, 2023

About The Author

J.R. is a content creator with AOTF and has been covering gaming and entertainment in the industry since 2022. Along with a B.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati, he has studied at the University of Birmingham, UK, and part of his M.A. at the University of Waterloo. You'll find J.R. particularly at home writing about the hottest manga and anime. He is highly passionate about horror, strategy, and RPGs, and anything about Star Trek or LOTR. When not ranting about fan theories or writing guides, J.R. also manages his local movie theater.


  • Score: 4 / 5
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  • Genre: Historical Action Film
  • US Release Date: April 28, 2023
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  • Quote: "Sisu is a film that thrives on absurdity, with just enough historical context to make sense. This, along with some magic realism, allows viewers to shut off their brains a bit and enjoy the glorious, bloody romp on the silver screen."
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