Game Night (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, US, 2018, 140 mins

Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnusson

Review by James Bartlett

Fiercely competitive couple Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) have put the snacks out, the beers are in the fridge, and once their friends Kevin and Michelle (Morris and Bunbury) and dunderhead Ryan (Magnusson) arrive, their weekly Game Night can begin.

Then Max’s more successful, charismatic and better-looking brother Brooks (Chandler) screeches up in his red sportscar, tipping off intense cop neighbor Gary (Plemons) that, once again, he and his little dog Sebastian have been excluded from the festivities.

Brooks insists the group come to his fab rented place for the next Game Night, and, once assembled – with Sarah (Horgan) now Ryan’s date – he tells them they’re going to be taking part in a murder/mystery that will see one of them “kidnapped,” and a race for everyone else to find the clues, rescue the “victim,” save the day (and of course: WIN!).

Moments later a nearly-convincing FBI agent appears and tells them a team of kidnappers are in the area, before, on cue, a gun-toting pair of thugs arrive.

Quaffing champers and nibbling cheese, Annie et al watch the very convincing punch-up between the thugs and Brooks that follows, and when Brooks is manhandled out the door they break into applause.

Max is fuming that his brother is, as ever, the star of the show, but there’s no time for that as the three couples open the first clue and the chase begins. He and Annie are soon at the head of the pack – and so they’re the ones who discover that everything is not what it seems…

Unexpectedly amusing and engaging, Game Night is an adult caper movie with a clear tone and even a strong, pacy directorial style from Daley and Goldstein, writers of Horrible Bosses who are now stepping up to directing.

Screenwriter Mark Perez deserves great credit too (he’s very much left one of his previous credits, Lindsay Lohan-starrer Herbie: Fully Loaded in the rear-view mirror) by crafting a third act that was especially full of good twists and surprises.

There were some missteps, like the unnecessary “having a baby” subplot, but the cast are game and seemingly having fun (Horgan plays her always-welcome “Catastrophe” persona, and there are a number of tiny parts and cameos to spot too).

Overall this is an enjoyable romp that’s worth a look – if only to find out whether being a pub quiz ace and having serious skills at Pictionary or Charades can really help you when you’re up against international criminals.

Author: James Bartlett

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