6 Movies to Watch if You Like ‘Sisu’ (2022): It feels like these movies have become a genre of their own, so let’s put them into the ‘you shouldn’t have upset the wrong guy’ genre and allow them to give us an adrenaline shot of nonsensically brutal but fun violence on screen. Adding to the ever-increasing list of films that follow this setup, north Finland set action-thriller ‘Sisu’ is turning heads after Sony Pictures acquired it out of its TIFF premiere and recently released it in movie theatres across North America, bringing Lionsgate on board as a distributor.
The story is set in late 1944 during the Lapland War, where Finland made a treaty with the Soviet Union to remove their former German allies from the country. Aatami Korpi (played by Jorma Tommila), a retired commando and prospector, lives alone in the remote wilderness of Lapland with his horse and dog. On his way to town with a bag of gold nuggets, Aatami encounters a ruthless German platoon led by SS Obersturmführer Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie). Aatami is initially allowed to pass, but when another group of soldiers tries to kill him for the gold, he defends himself.
Bruno discovers one of Aatami’s gold nuggets and becomes intrigued by him. A cat-and-mouse chase ensues, with Aatami using his survival skills to outwit the German soldiers. Along the way, a battle of wits and blood begins between Aatami & Bruno, with more underlining plot points coming to play, stretching out the thin plot into a more cohesive revenge story.
Now, if you’ve liked the relentless pursuit in Jalmari Helander’s Sisu, here are a few movies you might want to check out.
1. First Blood (1982)
I know, I know, First Blood is something that doesn’t need an introduction, but I can’t be making a list of movies like Sisu and not mention the OG of the genre. It’s no coincidence that director Helander has cited Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood, which also serves as the beginning of a franchise that we later came to be known as Rambo; it is about messing up with the wrong guy and not realizing that they can single-handedly own your ass.
The story of First Blood is about John J. Rambo, a former Special Forces soldier haunted by his experiences in Vietnam, who visits a friend in Hope, Washington. However, an insulting encounter with Sheriff William Teasel leads to Rambo’s violent arrest. But you can’t keep Stallon still, can you? Rambo escapes, going on a rampage in the forest, pursued by the vengeful sheriffs. And the rest is history; for both his pursuers and what actually happened next.
2. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
When you clear off the narrative clutter, at its core Sisu is a movie about killing Nazis and brothers; there’s but only one other movie that I think deserves to be in here, and that’s Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, Inglourious Basterds. Much like, Sisu, this is one of those movies that never dumbs down on its more violent urges – of course, Tarantino’s at the helm, but even for his repo, Inglourious Basterds gloriously glorifies killing off of Nazis, and does it with style and substance.
To summarize the plot, Inglorious Basterds begins in In 1941, with Hans Landa interrogating and terrorizing the LaPadite family, revealing the hiding place of a Jewish family, the Dreyfuses. Years later, U.S. Army Lieutenant Aldo Raine forms a group called the Basterds, aiming to strike fear into Nazis by killing them. Meanwhile, Shosanna plans to avenge her family’s death in Paris by plotting to kill Nazi leaders attending a film premiere at her cinema. The Basterds, along with British agent Archie Hicox and German actress Bridget von Hammersmark, team up for the mission, but things go out of hand before they explode.
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3. The Equalizer (2014)
Robert McCall leads a quiet life in Boston, working at a hardware store and helping his colleague Ralphie train as a security guard. He befriends Teri, a teenage prostitute trafficked by the Russian mob, and they bond over books during their late-night conversations at a diner. When Teri reveals her real name, Alina, and her dream of becoming a singer, her pimp Slavi violently interrupts and takes her away. Robert discovers Alina badly beaten and learns that Slavi is part of a larger criminal syndicate led by Russian oligarch Vladimir Pushkin. Seeking justice, Robert takes matters into his own hands and eliminates Slavi’s men. Unbeknownst to him, Pushkin’s enforcer Teddy Rensen arrives in Boston to investigate. Teddy’s ruthless pursuit leads him to confront Robert, but Robert remains undeterred and fights a long battle to stand for what he feels is true.
Now, old, retired guys being badasses is one thing, but how cool is it to see Denzel kicking ass? Much like Aatami in Sisu, The Equalizer is one of those movies that you will like if you want to see an unlikely protagonist spilling blood and guts all over your screen. While not as graphic as Sisu, The Equaliser may just be a great double bill.
4. John Wick (2014)
The first John Wick is something that comes to mind instantly after watching Sisu. One of the main reasons has to be the big texts that appears in the trailer, which says ‘From the Makers of John Wick.’ The other is, of course, a solitary man living a solitary existence, thrust to calibrate into his older persona of being a deadly, human-killing machine upon being made angry for no apparent reason.
Much like Sisu, John Wick (the first chapter) features a retired badass assassin who has been living off the grid for five-odd years and grieving his wife’s death. When a baddy decides to mess up his life and take away his dog, Wick, a.k.a Baba Yaga, a.k.a the Boogyeman, gets back in the groove and decides to kill everyone who comes in his way before he gets what he wishes.
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5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Now, Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t feature a retired assassin getting back in the game, and it also takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, but once you see Sisu, you will realize how uncanny both movies are. It almost feels like director Jalmari Helander saw the 2015 Miller return on repeat and decided to pen down Sisu on the same blueprint.
Much like Sisu, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those movies that is basically one big chase sequence. Aided by the badass Furiousa, Max, our protagonist, traversers through the wasteland, searching for some kind of redemption. On their way to a supposedly better place, they fight, kill and burn enemies that are trying to be in harm’s way. While both the setting and the tone are similar in Sisu and Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the many reasons I thought of it in the first place is because of the narrative turn where a group of women joins the two protagonists on their journey.
6. Nobody (2021)
The latest in the line of movies about a retired assassin trying to leave a normal, solitary life is the Bob Odenkirk starrer Nobody. The movie is set around the life of Hutch Mansell, a docile, everyday man who is living a boring life with his wife and kids until his house is burgled by two petty thieves and something very close to his daughter’s existence is taken away from her.
Mad that the thieves could have easily taken a different route with their ways, Mansell decides to go back to his older days and kick some ass. Now, the reason why Nobody comes off as a surprisingly pleasurable movie-watching experience is that we haven’t seen Odenkirk in a role that allows him to beat the living crap out of Russians.
The sleek, blood-fueled revenge plot of Nobody and Sisu both feature a linear progression where badasser is exhibited by a protagonist that you’d least expect to be that way.