Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 144: The Game (1997) - Rank 4/5


From the realism of "Goodbye Solo" to the delightfully absurd of one of David Fincher's early works - quite the juxtaposition. Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) receives an unusual birthday gift from his brother (Sean Penn) - a "game" that incorporates the real world, turns your life upside down and is guaranteed to change you forever. The plot is one that studio executives love, because they get to use cliched catchphrases like "when your life is no longer your own..." or "when everything you know is wrong..." in the trailer. I suppose a more accurate description would be Gordan Gecko in a fucked-up version of "A Christmas Carol."

The game itself starts out easy enough, but soon one twist trumps another and Nicholas finds himself in a bizarre refraction of reality where international corporations disappear in a day and cab drivers attempt to kill him. It's honestly pretty mind-boggling when I think back on how the suspense continues to build for damn near the entire film. You practically are driven as mad as Nicholas wondering how the story will resolve itself. Unfortunately, that's the film's great drawback.

David Fincher's kinetic whirlwind of double-crosses and deathtraps build up the plot and suspense so much that no payoff can ever adequately satisfy the viewer. Furthermore, so much of the film lies on random chance that you have to take a hell of a lot for granted to not pick apart the implausibilities of the plot to the point of distaste for the script. However, the cat and mouse of "The Game" is enough to keep anyone hooked to the point of seeing the story tot he end, even if you know that the final punch is almost laughably silly. And that is certainly a trait attributable, not only to excellent direction on Fincher's part, but entertaining performances by Douglas, Penn and let's not forget that great, supporting character actor famous for playing weaselly, bureaucratic, untrustworthy types: James Rebhorn.


I need to get his autograph so that way, when folks visit my home, they can steal it from the wall and run off just as Douglas does. Movie references? You're soaking in them.

Watch the Trailer

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