Wednesday 28 February 2018

Film Review: Game Night

Make sure you pass go and collect $200 en route to watching Game Night, a stellar comedy/thriller that makes excellent use of a killer script and ensemble cast.

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a regular suburban couple who host a weekly game night with their friends; living in a sleepy cul-de-sac, their life seems to be going just swimmingly, except for the fact that they can't conceive to save their life.

When Max's brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) swans back into town in a flash car and undermines Max at every turn, things get even more strained between the two, and when game night rolls around once again, a staged murder mystery soon turns sinister. In a race against time to find the culprit of an actual murder, the group must unravel a series of clues in their most hectic game night yet.

Game Night takes a simple premise and gives it a fun spin; with a labyrinth plot peppered with sharp twists and U-turns, this is a loopy and unpredictable film that keeps you guessing and engaged. To me at least, it feels a lot like that episode of Community where Jeff enrols in a class about conspiracy theories and a lot of humour flows from the inability to discern what is real and what isn't.

The ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Lamorne Morris (New Girl) and Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), is firing on cylinders, and the repartee between Morris and partner Kylie Bunbury, who plays Michelle, is especially funny. But it's McAdams and Bateman who really make this film work; their chemistry goes off like a firecracker, with the former flexing her comedic chops once again to great effect. Jesse Plemons, who plays Max and Annie's creepy neighbour, steals the show in his scenes as well.

Game Night's greatest strength is its punchiness; scenes and lines of dialogue feel tight and well-oiled, not freewheeling and disjointed like so many studio comedies nowadays. Rather than rambling riffs, the characters feel clearly sketched and are spared from improv that lets things get unfocused.

The action is well-choreographed, with an inventive mix of shots to keep you in the moment and along for the ride. A fixed steady cam that swerves with the car during a chase stood out, as did some clever CGI shots that pull back and make the characters look like pieces on a game board.

The icing on the cake is Cliff Martinez's (Drive, The Neon Demon) score; when was the last time a comedy employed original music that wasn't just used as background music? Martinez's score underlines the thriller elements of the screenplay and is actually memorable.

The Verdict: 8/10

A potent concoction of comedy, crime thriller and conspiracy action keeps Game Night kicking from start to finish. Bateman and McAdams make a great pairing and the technical aspects aren't just par for the course. One of the best comedies in years.

Game Night is in cinemas across Australia now.

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