Film review: GAME NIGHT, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The amiable if at times flat Game Night is a little like David Fincher’s The Game done in the style of contemporary comedies like Horrible Bosses. It also falls into that cinematic sub-genre the Jason Bateman movie in which Bateman plays the put-upon, every-man, nice guy schlub forced into a dangerous situation that inevitably provides some necessary jolt to his staid suburban life.

Here Bateman plays Max who, despite a comfortable life and marriage to the gorgeous Annie (Rachel McAdams), is perpetually stressed, a condition that seems to be impeding his ability to conceive a child. The source of his anxiety seems to be his arrogant Wall Street trader brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) who has always taken sadistic delight in trouncing Max at games and competitions throughout their lives. When the obnoxious Brooks invites Max and Annie and their friends to a murder mystery party the night unexpectedly turns into a battle against kidnappers and sleaze-ball gangsters.

The film attempts to weld a typical Bateman middle class suburban rom-com to a crime thriller but the results are at best middling. Bateman’s easy charm and comic timing work about as well as they do in other films where he’s played essentially the same character and McAdams’ cheery, live-wire performance is typically fun and endearing.  Add an amusingly creepy performance from Jesse Plemons as a weird, angry cop neighbour who’s determined to inveigle himself into Max and Annie’s life and at least in its early stages, this is an enjoyably perky comedy.

As the film attempts to entangle Max and Annie in a twist-laden action/crime/ caper/ story, though, it begins to lose its appeal. The film lacks the necessary thrills, intensity and drama for this part of the movie to work. Add to this a few dud gags, predictable story threads, sub-plots about characters misfiring relationships that don’t really go anywhere and some completely unbelievable scenarios including a ludicrous sequence at a gangster’s mansion and Game Night becomes a little laboured.

Thankfully, Game Night eschews much some of the grubbiness and nastiness of contemporary raunch comedies but it doesn’t replace this with enough genuine wit, energy or clever story-telling.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein.

Release date: 22nd Feb 2018.

Running time: 100 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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