Saturday, April 13, 2013

Movie #187: The Game

The Game is a late-90s thriller film starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and Deborah Kara Unger, directed by David Fincher.

Douglas stars as Nicholas van Orton, an obscenely rich investment banker who is, if not bored, then unfulfilled. He's coming up on his 48th birthday, the age at which his father jump from the roof of the mansion he now inhabits. His brother, Conrad (Penn) takes him to dinner and gives him his present: A "game," designed by a company called Consumer Recreation Services, tailored to him. More to keep up appearances than anything else, he goes through their lengthy "application" process...and then finds himself entrenched in something weird.

At first, it's just impressive weirdness. They give him a key, tell him others will follow, manipulate the nightly news so that the anchor is talking to him. But then it's chases and vandalism to his house, a hotel room with pictures of the waitress (Unger) that he was running from police with the night before (maybe), but now it turns out she's in on it and they're shooting at him! Holy shit!

In the end, they really are just running the game he paid for. They trick him into thinking that he shoots and kills Conrad, whereupon he jumps off a building into a giant landing pad just in time for his birthday party. All is well, but maybe now he's a little wiser.

It's definitely a Fincher film, with all of the dark, dingy beauty that implies. Douglas gives van Orton just enough vulnerability to make him feel like a person, and Penn is appropriately troubled as Conrad. The game is plausible as a con, but when they pull back the curtain and it is just a game, it doesn't feel like too much of a cheat.

My biggest problem with the movie, though, is that I don't give a shit about van Orton. He's a rich, spoiled, ass, and he never actually loses a damn thing. The game could be about redemption, except it's not, because he's free to go back to being the same ass he always was. Yes, he's got some issues with the suicide of his father, but the end of the movie doesn't give you the sense that he's really come to terms with anything, just that the game showed him that he was fragile and vulnerable, but not that most other people are far more so.

This movie is about a member of the 1% before that was a thing, and I don't think it's aged especially well.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Get Carter