It’s Horrible Bosses meets David Fincher’s The Game.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a mostly happy married couple living in the suburbs whose highlight of their week is a game night with their friends. But when Max’s much more successful and wealthy brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to visit, awakening Max’s sibling rivalry and competitive streak to the next level, Brooks decides to take over their game night by replacing it with a kidnapping / murder mystery. The twist? Brooks is actually kidnapped, and our group thinks it’s just a game. And. . . hijinks ensue.
What could’ve been another mundane comedy actually has some good laughs, including when it’s using its R-rating to the fullest extent it can. But more than that, it relies on building its characters and a great supporting cast to keep it interesting. Normally this premise might have worn itself thin, but there are a couple of twists and turns that keep it enjoyable. However, it’s never too much and the script never takes itself too seriously or thinks it’s smarter than it is. Overall, it’s what we expect from the people who made Horrible Bosses.
The real gem of the movie, though, is Jesse Plemons, who plays a creepy cop neighbor who really wants to get invited back to their game night. Plemons is one of the best actors working today, and he is perfect, even if a little over the top at times.
But his performance, like so many elements, actually make sense as things wrap up and you see the entire film for its totality. For instance? There are all these shots of various neighborhoods from above that somehow look like tiny scale models rather than real life. . . is it all part of a (gasp!) game? Make sure you stay through the first part of the credits for some specific payoff.
The other enjoyable part of this film is just how well it’s put together. An earlier comparison to Fincher is not just hyperbole– there is some artistry in the cinematography and directing here. For instance, a scene three-fourths of the way through the film during which a Fabrege egg (really it’s just a mcguffin– go with it) is used in a game of keep away in a gorgeous mansion as baddies chase our protagonists around– up and down staircases, in and out of rooms, swooping up and down giant open rooms with balconies above — all done to look like a single take.
It’s almost as much fun to watch as Plemons enjoy the heck out his character.
The biggest weakness of this film is it happens to be released amongst other films that will overshadow it at the box office. Can I recommend Game Night? Yes. Can I recommend you go see it instead of Black Panther or Annihilation? Well. . .
But if you are like our protagonists and are seeking some fun time with adult friends — and especially if you can go to a theater that will sell you adult beverages to go with it — and you just want to laugh and have a good time without thinking too much? This will scratch that particular itch. Otherwise, this is a definite recommend for watching at home with friends, with adult beverages, and perhaps with board games, especially if the game includes betrayal and murder. I highly recommend pairing this with a good game of Betrayal at House on the Hill or Werewolf.
(Rolls a d6 to determine overall score)
(Adds +2 Jesse Plemons)
3 out of 5 stars