This sounded like it might be fun. Wrong!
It's been described in places as a 'comedy-horror' story (though with no true 'horror' at all, more 'spoof- thriller' - and only very limited comedy) I thought it would be a refreshing change after all the awards seasons bluster - and the fact that I like 'puzzle' films (as against 'mystery) where the audience is confronted with a brain-teaser situation to be resolved through our own deduction, I was intrigued enough to grant it a try. In the event it fell quite a bit short in delivery, though not without a few modestly entertaining moments. More than one review has called it "hilarious throughout". That it was not!
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are one of three couples who meet weekly for a 'game evening' - charades, scrabble, trivial pursuit questions etc., observed with some resentment by a creepy neighbour who always wears police uniform, he having been shut out of their invitations. Also part of the group is Bateman's single, elder brother (Kyle Chandler) there being some lifelong rivalry between the two siblings. One evening the brother has single-handedly decided to spice things up by telling the others that he has arranged with a firm, specialising in the purpose(!), to stage a 'kidnapping' of one of the group, and that they are to find, by means of planted clues, a certain object within a prescribed time, to effect the release of the 'hostage'. Okay, nice idea. I can accept that within the conceit of a light-hearted film, that by sheer coincidence something then happens at that very moment which the three couples assume is part of the game but, to the instigator's maddening frustration, is not. So the others observe what takes place with considerable levity. Twists and turns abound, games within games - at least that's what we're supposed to see - but for me the idea was fatally undercut by one of the several grim moments, where everybody could see it was for real rather than staged by this 'company, though the characters were still reacting as though it was all a bit of a lark. The film needed a bit of true darkness to throw the comic bits into relief, and this it lacked. The unexpected moments started to turn into 'So what?' happenings and my interest level steadily dropped.
The film has two directors (J.F. Daley and Jonathan Goldstein) and that might be why it's showing its problem of inconsistency. It seemed to be aware of what it perceived as its own 'cleverness', as though winking to the audience, or a stand-up comedian laughing at his own jokes, but that knowing awareness upstaged any honesty in execution when it needed a distance inserted between screen and audience. It might have been a good film - and, clearly, for quite a number it was exactly that - but ultimately I saw more chances missed than on-target hits. Nevertheless, despite all I say, I must confess that it could have been even a lot worse than it was.......5.
3 hours ago