Film in review: “Game Night”


Blake Gasner, Features Reporter

The black comedy film, “Game Night,” directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, and starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons and Denzel Washington (kinda-sorta, but not really). This “cameo” by Denzel Washington is one of many brilliant strokes of pop culture awareness “Game Night” exhibits throughout the course of its 100-minute runtime. Considering the main characters of the film are all hyper competitive trivia, board and card game players, the dialogue flowing out of their mouths is justifiable, saturated with loads of pop culture trivia, making “Game Night” a feast for connoisseurs of film and television references. The best humor of the film, however, surfaces once the film’s action kicks off to start driving the plot of the film.

Jason Bateman plays the protagonist, Max, who alongside his wife, Annie (Rachel McAdams), relish in their weekly game night with friends.

Their weekly group gathering falls far out of its conventional ways, however, when Max’s rich and compulsive brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), arrives in town and asks to host his own game night at his newly-rented mansion. Always attempting to accelerate excitement to new levels, Brooks opts to break convention by hiring a company to set up a kidnapping scenario that will blur the line between reality and fiction for the players, creating the most exciting and elaborate game yet. This, however, fails miserably when actual criminals become interwoven with the events of the game, truly blurring the line between reality and fiction, and twisting it into a more dangerous blurring of the lines of danger and safety instead.

Although a brisk film, the runtime of the movie only really starts to plow by after the first twenty minutes which suffer from some jokes that do not hit their marks and an overall conventional introduction to characters and events. The plot, however, starts to deviate from the normal course once Brooks comes into the mix, propelling the story forward with a mix of wild chaos and humor. “Game Night” exhibits an uncanny ability to build jokes from earlier in the film with newly introduced concepts that consequently make for gut-busting laughs all the way through. One of the likely causes of this is the remarkable chemistry between the cast. They all possess an ability to maintain a youthful attitude throughout that many films with adults fail to do. Although they may be in their 30’s and 40’s, they, like everyone else, still enjoy indulging in the childlike yearning for fun and play, and that is perfectly okay. This is the attitude of the film as well as the central conflict for the protagonist Max, who is pickled with the internal struggle of choosing to begin a life as a father or maintaining the freedoms he enjoys with less responsibilities.

Yes, “Game Night” is an absolutely fun time at the movies, but do not let all the laughs and thrills fool you into thinking it has no depth at all. “Game Night” packs a surprising amount of heart as well for a film that is classified on IMDb as a “black comedy.” On top of this, it also features a variety of tremendous stunt work and action pieces that would even be considered impressive in your standard action flick. This is especially true in one particular scene involving an important egg. During this scene, the filmmakers defy gravity with their camera work, swooping the camera through hallways, up staircases and out windows in one continuous shot that captures the full extent of the action in the scene. Often with comedies it’s easy for us to settle for films that rely heavily on foul mouthed language and physical gags, and don’t get me wrong “Game Night” has this too, but it overachieves by complementing this with swift action, tremendous heart, childlike silliness and wonderfully crafted twists that will leave viewers hesitant of the direction the plot will be heading in next.

If in the mood for a film that will leave you laughing in stitches and locked to the screen with surprisingly effective action, then “Game Night” is the film for you. 4.5/5