Director: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Jesse Plemons, Kyle Chandler
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 22 February 2018
Synopsis: Bateman and McAdams star as Max and Annie, whose weekly couples game night gets kicked up a notch when Max's charismatic brother, Brooks, arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So, when Brooks gets kidnapped, it's all part of the game...right? But as the six uber-competitive gamers set out to solve the case and win, they begin to discover that neither this "game"-nor Brooks-are what they seem to be. Over the course of one chaotic night, the friends find themselves increasingly in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn. With no rules, no points, and no idea who all the players are, this could turn out to be the most fun they've ever had...or, it's game over.
When it comes to playing games, this reviewer is very competitive and wants to win everything. How is that this movie’s protagonist, who also gets a kick out of winning, scores a spouse during the course of playing games – yet this columnist remains unattached?
In the comedy’s opening scenes, we see how Max (Office Christmas Party’s Jason Bateman) wins not only games, but also the heart of Annie (Spotlight’s Rachel McAdams). The two get married and continue regular social gatherings with friends to play games. Sounds a tad boring? Throw in Brooks, Max’s overachieving elder brother played by Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea). That, plus a murder mystery game turning real for the players.
The result is a very entertaining 100 minute movie that largely wins because of its very likeable ensemble cast.
Bateman has always done a good job at portraying Average Joes, and he effortlessly plays the protagonist who finds himself in trouble after a series of misadventures. The icing on the cake is how he also finds his place in the game of life. The ever pleasant McAdams plays his partner, and the two have an agreeable on screen chemistry.
The supporting players are a delightful bunch too - Billy Magnussen (The Big Short) is the brainless jock, Sharon Horgan (Man Up) is his intelligent English love interest, while Lamorne Morris (Barbershop: The Next Cut) and Kylie Bunbury (The Sitter) are a couple who find themselves embroiled in the midst of gun fights and car pursuits. The standout character is the socially awkward and somewhat creepy cop played by Jesse Plemons (The Post). As someone whose wife ran away and is constantly looking to be part of the group, you fear and sympathise with him at the same time.
Marketed as a dark comedy, there are several out of this world moments in the movie. An adorable white dog getting drenched in blood and a villain getting sucked into a plan engine are just two of the gags conceptualised by directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. The duo, who wrote the story for Horrible Bosses (2011) and its 2014 sequel, made their theatrical directorial debut with Vacation (2015). If you have seen those movies, you know what to expect with their latest work.
The story written by Mark Perez features plot twists (one too many, actually), violence and coarse language (hence the NC16 rating). At a digestible runtime of less than two hours, it is a fun affair and a refreshing respite amidst the heavy dramas and superhero blockbusters. It is also a glossy and well produced movie - make sure to stay for the end credits, which are very well done.
Other than the ridiculous humour, there are also many geek worthy moments in the movie. References to popular movies like Fight Club, The Sixth Sense and Taken are aplenty. What clues would you give to describe Edward Norton? Which movie line did Morris use when he pulled off an impressive Denzel Washington impersonation? If you play enough games that require your knowledge of pop culture, you’d know.
(With a likeable cast and a fun premise, this Game Night is a winner)
Review by John Li