The Game (1997) (R)















"The Game" comes from David Fincher who is no stranger to dark and disturbing movies—films like "Se7en" and "Fight Club" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". After first seeing "Se7en", which was the first thing I saw by Fincher, I claimed that I hated the man and would have nothing more to do with him. It's true, "Se7en" freaked me out and I found it dissatisfying. But then came "Fight Club" and then "The Social Network" and since then I have seen virtually everything that David Fincher has done  with the exception of "Zodiac".
I have never been a fan of Michael Douglas as an actor, sure he's a good producer—I mean, he produced "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". But as a lead actor I find him very annoying and maybe it's a personal thing, that's possible—I can admit to that.
"The Game" is a movie that hinges on a third act reveal. Everything builds up to that last moment and with the stylization of Harris Savides, the cinematographer and Howard Shore, the composer; the ending had better be really good.
Everything is mysterious to Nicholas Van Orton, a rich bank investor who seems to not enjoy anything in life. His mind is haunted by the photographic memory of his father's suicide, something he still hasn't gotten over.
On his 48th birthday Nicholas's brother, Conrad, gives him a 'gift card' to a place called CRS, Consumer Recreational Services. He is told that he is going to play a game (don't worry it's nothing like "Saw") but he needs to take a physical and two psychological evaluations; then he's rejected from CRS—he wasn't a fit.
Rightly so, Nicholas is a little miffed over this and he pouts for a couple of hours on the way home from work and then...he finds a life-size clown doll laying face down in his driveway right where his dad died.
He brings the doll inside and the television starts talking to him—Congratulations, Nicholas. You are now in the game, all that other stuff we said, yeah, forget about that.
So now Nicholas is playing the game, whatever the game is we don't know. Apparently knowing what the game actually is, is the game itself. It made me wonder if this movie spawned the popular phrase "You lost the game!"...if you don't know what that is, don't bother, it's not worth your time.
So "The Game" turns into a thriller with odd occurrences happening to Nicholas like a hospital loosing power and everyone disappearing, or a key that works an elevator he's never been in, or pictures of him doing things that he never did.
With the discordant piano notes and the dark night shoots, "The Game" is remarkably solid as a thriller but we know that the end is coming. Everything becomes more and more puzzling until the reveal demands to be the best...and it's not.
No, frankly the ending was a disappointment. A well-done disappointment, but still hollow. Michael Douglas does a good job but I still think that someone else would have filled the role better.
There are moments that sent chills down my spine like turning on a light to reveal a graffiti-ed home that reads "welcome home" in a creepy spray paint sort of way.
David Fincher is now one of my favorite directors, although I do think that "The Game" wasn't as good as some of his other works.
With "The Game" we get a generic title, an average lead, some interesting twists, and shout-off drama scenes that just don't work.
The movie also takes some twists and turns that don't add up, it should have stuck to just being a thriller (cue Michael Jackson music).


Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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