Review: Winning comedy-thriller Game Night more than trivial pursuits
- Credit: Warner Bros.
Trivial pursuits escalate into life-or-death gambles in madcap murder mystery set in sleepy American suburbia, where middle-class couples see their love of board games take a sinister turn.
Game Night (15)
It's a close run thing but I suspect my most objectionable experience in the cinema was The Game, the late 1990s thriller. Millionaire Michael Douglas gets the gift of a role-playing game from his brother Sean Penn, and then has his life be torn apart and is nearly killed only for — spoiler — it to be revealed that it really had all been a big game, done to teach him a lesson about the value of life.
The pathetic lame betrayal of that ending would have been gut-wrenching even if it hadn't been David Fincher's follow up to Seven.
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Now though there is some small measure of restitution in Game Night, a comedy in which a role-playing kidnap detective game becomes real when the victim is genuinely kidnapped, while the friends still think it is a game.
Max (Jason Bateman) and his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) are board game fiends who host regular game nights for their friends, including married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and dim-witted pal Ryan (Billy Magnussen).
- 1 Two men in critical condition as multiple people stabbed
- 2 Fire crews rush to a crash near Norfolk village
- 3 Police swoop on Norwich address
- 4 Secluded Broads farmhouse in almost 11 acres goes up for sale
- 5 'Like a horror film' - Friends left terrified after being followed in woods
- 6 Owner of popular bakery rushed into intensive care 120 miles from home
- 7 Plans for seven new supermarkets in Norfolk - but where will they be?
- 8 Police called after elderly, sick seal attacked with stones
- 9 Asda and Amazon urgently recall items due to safety concerns
- 10 Norwich cat torturer who murdered pensioner ‘planned to carry on killing’
Max's flashy older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) returns unexpectedly and offers to host the next game night. 'Someone in this room is going to be taken,' he teases.
Sure enough, an actor posing as an FBI agent arrives at the front door with cryptic clues, followed by two masked men, who snatch Brooks.
There is a certain irony in casting Bateman (a performer born for the Michael Rodd role in Tomorrow's World: The Motion Picture) as an ultra-competitive, sore loser, compulsive game player because I doubt he's ever been the first choice for any role.
He's funny but in an apologetic, reserved way; even when he's playing neurotics he is so smooth your eyes can kind of glide past him. Here though with McAdams, as the equally competitive compulsive game player, they are an inspired pairing.
The film itself is not much more than alright, a little bit too frantic for its own good, but when it is funny the laughs are big and the performers are engaging.
There's probably a bit too much plot but in an age when comedy performers often just want to turn up and wing it, maybe we should appreciate a comedy where somebody has bothered to sit down beforehand and work out what will happen.
The oddest thing about the film is its cameos. Danny Huston and Michael C. Hall turn up in small but significant roles. The odd one, the one that had me wondering if I was seeing things, is Jeffrey Wright. This very fine movie actor, the Felix Leiter to Daniel Craig's Bond, turns up uncredited in a minor role that is pure plot device, delivers some dull exposition dialogue, before being boffed on the head and forgotten about. Didn't anyone recognise him?