The Game

1997, Movie, R, 128 mins


A dark, intricately plotted thriller that answers the question, what do you give the man who has everything? Someone like San Francisco billionaire Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), whose rocky 48th -- the age at which his father committed suicide -- is smoothed over by all the comforts money can buy. Enter younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn), the family ne'er-do-well, bearing a gift certificate from Consumer Recreation Services, blandly named purveyors of high-end participatory games specially tailored to their recipients. Nicholas has his doubts, but nowhere near as many as he should: His game quickly begins to look like an intricate scheme to drive him insane, defraud him of his fortune or both. Director David Fincher specializes in the fabulously grim and gloomy -- think SEVEN and ALIEN 3 -- and the surprise here is that it's actually slightly less dark and rather less stylish than his previous films. But it's a cut above the throng of mindless, purported thrillers in which explosions and gun battles replace even rudimentary story telling. Evil plot or awesomely elaborate prank: No matter how you slice it, John Brancato and Michael Ferris's twisty plot is preposterous but beguiling, a teasing variation on the classic noir story about the unfortunate jerk whose one wrong step sends his life spiraling straight to hell. Sure, it strains credulity, but it's clever, well-paced and builds to a spectacular -- if not altogether satisfying -- conclusion. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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The Game
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