Game Night (2018)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Game Night</strong> (2018)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) With the simultaneous resurgence in R-rated comedies and immersive gaming for adults, it’s not such a surprise that something like Game Night would emerge—a comedy aimed at adults, taking on the mind games of a what’s-real-and-what’s-not kind of entertainment. The plot has to do with a regularly scheduled “game night” between friends spinning out of control as mystery men burst in the house and take away a player. As the group enjoys figuring out the clues to find the kidnappers, there are plenty of warnings that the line between entertainment and real danger is thinner than they expect. What could easily have been a thriller is here presented as a dark comedy, with characters blithely walking in danger when they are expecting the safety net of an arranged scenario. The distinction is further blurred by showy cinematography far closer to off-beat thriller than flat comedy—it supports the gaming thematic by playing head games with the audience, bathing everything in shadows and even tilt-focusing the images so that we’re reminded of game board pieces. Jason Bateman typically anchors the cast by providing level-headed snark even as the other actors are left to go wild. Rachel McAdams is a good foil as his wife, while Jesse Plemons is perhaps a bit too good as a lonely neighbour trying to join the gaming group—his performance is a bit too unnerving for comfort. The result is surprisingly good, especially when compared to other R-rated films: while I would have toned down the violence, the result does manage to find the tricky balance inherent in any black comedy, and the result is highly entertaining to watch. It even finds that meta-balance between the safety net of a comedy/game and the tension of a thriller/crime. Making good use of trendy elements, Game Night is a bit of a surprise and a welcome one at that.

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