Game Night (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Game Night.png

Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writer: Mark Perez
Stars: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler

I’ve got level with you, I didn’t know this film even existed before it popped up in theatres and once I did become aware of its existence, the premise and title had me doubting its quality. I’m all for fun and having a laugh, but a game night wouldn’t be top of my list of potential film adaptations. It had a decent enough cast to entice me though with the insanely busy Jesse Plemons popping up again and it actually ended up surprising me in a good way.

The film follows the antics of Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel Adams), they’re both competitive gamers and marry early on. There’s a time jump and then they’re seen having counselling. Max appears to have an inferiority complex with his brother Brooke (Kyle Chandler) being the primary cause. This issue is further compelled when the latter turns up at a cloak and daggers game night in Max’s dream car and then proceeds to embarrass him. He arranges a game night of his own, at his flash pad and this brings out the competitive streak in Annie, with the dysfunctional couple plotting the downfall of their estranged, obnoxious family member.

Now I mention a cloak and daggers game night and the reason behind that is their lonely, creepy, carrot headed neighbour Gary (Jesse Plemons). He’s not taking his divorce from ex-wife Debbie well and yearns for Max and Annie’s company and acceptance. There’s a painfully awkward conversation between the three early doors and their interactions don’t get any easier to watch as the film progresses.

The first twenty minutes to half hour had me concerned. It plodded along introducing the different people involved which is standard fair in most films, but there was a moment when I genuinely thought it was going to be about painful attempts at charades and arguing over monopoly until the bitter end. Thankfully though, things went up a few notches upon the guests arriving at Brooke’s house. He has a different idea for his brand of game night. He opts for a murder mystery affair with the winner picking up the keys to his Corvette. Brooke has been a naughty boy though, mixing in the wrong circles and when a pair of armed men storm his house and kidnap him, his guests think its all part of the game.

And that’s pretty much the plot for Game Night. Well, admittedly it’s a little bit more complicated than that but that’s the general gist of things. Max and Annie rush off trying to find Brooke, tracking his mobile and believing it’s all a game. There’s others involved too, who I won’t name because they don’t really have a massive impact on the proceedings, but the story is surprisingly enjoyable. Things go absolutely crazy after this and the film turns into a full blown action flick at times. They all eventually discover the game is very much real in their own time and that they’re dealing with ‘The Bulgarian’ (Michael C. Hall), a ruthless gangster.

There’s dramatic car chases, shootouts, an illuminati fight club scene, moments with bloodstained cats in pristine white rooms and even a dramatic chase with a plane trying to escape on a runway. There’s a couple of decent twists in there too, including a fake one. It’s got some  decent humour, likeable characters and as I mentioned before a quick paced and enjoyable, little story.

I really enjoyed Jason Bateman and Rachel Adams in this. They were a mad, dysfunctional couple and the latter gave me strong Monica from Friends vibes with her competitiveness. The overwhelming majority of the film followed them and if they weren’t right or didn’t turn up then it wouldn’t have worked. But they did. Bateman brought plenty of laughs and the two had good chemistry. The standout by a mile however was Jesse Plemons. Jesus, this guy is the definition of versatile. He’s got such a good range and pops up in a myriad of films as distinctly different characters. He’s like a human chameleon. Gary is a freak show of a man. He’s clearly battling loneliness, but is so caricature like in his creepiness and social awkwardness that you don’t know whether to laugh or pity him.

Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t even know this film existed until we discussed it on our ‘Box Office Chat’ segment of the Movie Burner Podcast. It flew right under the radar for me. The title nearly made me give it a pass entirely, but I’m actually glad that I watched it. Game Night is one of the rare films that I had little expectation for heading in, but it actually left me pleasantly surprised. It had a nice blend of comedy and action, a decent story with a few twists in there and it was reasonably well acted to boot.

I’d recommend giving it a watch if you’re bored and have a couple of hours to burn.

Rating: 3.5/5

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