Game Night
dir John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
scr Mark Perez
prd Jason Bateman, John Davis, John Fox, James Garavente
with Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti, Camille Chen, Michael C Hall
release US 23.Feb.18, UK 2.Mar.18
18/US Warner 1h40
Game Night
The gang's all here: Horgan, McAdams, Morris, Magnussen, Bateman and Bunbury

chandler plemons huston
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Game Night A smarter-than-usual script elevates this action comedy, giving the cast plenty to work with as they deploy both disarming charm and expert timing in a variety of nutty situations. Yes, the plot is very silly, and the film is far more violent than it needed to be, but it's also full of hilarious dialog and set-pieces that keep us chortling.

Max and Annie (Bateman and McAdams) are competitive nerds who met at a quiz night and host regular games evenings at home with sparky friends Kevin and Michelle (Morris and Bunbury), as well as gung-ho Ryan (Magnussen) and his girlfriend of the week (Horgan). Then Max's hyper-successful big brother Brooks (Chandler) arrives, wanting to host a special game night for everyone: this time a role-playing mystery involving a kidnapping. But events turn grisly, and the gang finds themselves in real peril involving a vicious gangster (Huston) and his army of goons.

Perez's screenplay cleverly twists the tale several times, offering surprises that are never thrilling but allow the madcap mayhem to spiral off in new directions. Along the way, directors Daley and Goldstein have a ball turning action cliches into running gags. Chase sequences have an edgy realism to them, as if these are just normal people trying to mimic what they've seen in the movies. And while it's never terribly original, it's witty enough to keep us entertained right to the somewhat creepy final credits.

Bateman and McAdams are solid: a normal couple not quite distracted from their fertility issues by this crazed situation. Their conversations are riotous, with jagged gags that make them believable and likeable. The others in the ensemble kind of stick to their proscribed characterisations, with Horgan offering sardonic scene-stealing alongside Magnussen's oblivious but engaging dork. And Plemons is dryly amusing as a recently single cop with his own amusingly dark undercurrents.

Comedies that are genuinely funny are relatively rare, and this one is enjoyably jam-packed with snappy wordplay, nutty visuals, freewheeling action and strong characters. There are times when the filmmakers' obsession with grisliness threatens to throw everything out of balance, especially since the relationships are relatively simplistic. Still, it's the kind of movie that's so packed with jokes and references that it will never be a chore to rewatch. The bigger question is whether the writer, directors and actors can top this with a sequel, going deeper instead of merely getting bigger and nastier.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 27.Feb.18

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