Sisu Movie Review: A Bleak Action Entry Wearing Its John Wick Influences on Its Sleeves

Sisu Stars Jorma Tommila and Aksel Hennie and is Directed by Jalmari Helander

Review: Sisu mostly capitalizes on the carnage that it promises – that Nazis won’t make it out of this thing. But outside of a few killer sequences, Sisu can’t quite match the stellar run of competing genre movies, resulting in one with clear influences.

review for Finnish Sisu movie, inspired by John Wick and action genre films
Sisu Movie Review

Sisu is the newest movie from director Jalmari Helander. Hoping to capitalize on a revitalized action genre burgeoning with new ideas and even newer talent, Helander and Stage 6 Films seem to hope their newest movie Sisu can latch onto the same audience foaming at the mouth whenever a new John Wick or Mission: Impossible movie hits theaters.

There was never a doubt that the success of the John Wick franchise would spawn imitators of the style. The broken down wandering sole reluctantly tearing apart enemies felt like a formula too easy to turn down for film studios, especially when you replace the underworld of deadly assassins with a good ole Nazi revenge tale. That’s the case in Sisu, the most unabashedly campy and thin-skinned popcorn flick of the year.

And for someone so deeply interested in the connective tissue that binds together each of the movies in the John Wick series, I felt obligated to hand over 91 minutes of my time to see what Sisu could offer. This unrelenting, schlocky “you messed with the wrong feller” story of a man just trying to get back his gold had to at least deliver on that simple premise.

For the most part, Sisu makes good on its promise as long as you tame your expectations down from the fact that it feels like such a barebones entry into a suddenly flourishing genre. Large-scale action is in now, which results in the feeling that perhaps Sisu released in movie theaters a few years too late. The gory elements will surely pull some visceral reactions from viewers, but the lean nature of Sisu’s script doesn’t offer much ability to move inside of the movie. You’re stuck in the mud during its quieter scenes, just waiting for the action to kick back up.

Sisu begins as all good Westerns should, with our protagonist Aatami (Jorma Tommila) quietly prospecting for gold with only his horse and Terrier by his side. He collects a hefty number of nuggets before heading back to collect his reward. As he tracks back, he encounters two separate groups of Nazi soldiers. The first, led by the terrorizing Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie), doesn’t think much of him.

But the second does, discovering Aatami’s stash of gold and preparing to execute him and take his belongings. Unfortunately for the Nazis, and quite fortunately for the viewers at home, the swindling antagonists don’t know who they’re dealing with. Aatami makes quick work of the soldiers, making each of them wish they never crossed paths with him.

Reviews for Movies like Sisu (2023)

The following hour of Sisu acts as a simple chase story – Nazis trying to take down the elusive prospector seemingly capable of taking down the German army by his lonesome. The movie does an admirable job of reinventing new ways to kill the foes around every corner, from pickaxe brutality to liquefying them with landmines. Again, given what you’re promised in Sisu, the movie works quite well to live up to its end of the bargain.

A second act rewrite could’ve really done Sisu wonders, expanding on the lore of Aatami beyond losing his family in the war and becoming a one-man, cold-blooded wrecking crew. It’s rather predictable, and the procedural aspects of the movie aren’t able to carry it by themselves.

The major stylistic choice of the movie involves the absence of dialogue by our main protagonist, who allows his murder spree to do the talking. As a result, Sisu feels almost too serious and unrelenting for its own good – not allowing the opportunity for quick self-reflection before entering back into the bloodbath.

I thought Sisu was fine. The third act isn’t able to elevate it much, opting for a CGI-laden showdown on a broken down German fighter plane. At this point, it feels like the movie is just going through the motions depicting choreography that doesn’t reinvent the wheel much.

If you see the trailer and think it’s something right up your lane, you may really enjoy Sisu, but the movie felt too much like the sum of better, more expansive fanfare with bigger budgets and a keen eye for delivering something new. Perhaps the next John Wick reimagining will be a bit better.


Genre: Action, War

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Sisu Cast and Credits

Sisu movie poster


Jorma Tommila as Aatami

Aksel Hennie as Bruno

Jack Doolan as Wolf

Mimosa Willamo as Aino


Director: Jalmari Helander

Writer: Jalmari Helander

Cinematography: Kjell Lagerroos

Editor: Juho Virolainen

Composers: Juri SeppäTuomas Wäinölä

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