When Brooks (Kyle Chandler) invited his little brother Max (Jason Bateman) alongside his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) and their four friends (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Billy Magnussen and Sharon Horgan) for an elaborate murder-mystery game, things suddenly got out of hands with the sudden arrival of two armed thugs. Brooks ends up getting captured and they figure it’s all professionally staged to look real. Or is it?
Imagine David Fincher’s The Game (remember that 1997 underrated gem?) made into a black comedy, and you got yourself a Game Night. Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, this is the duo’s follow-up to the god-awful Vacation reboot. Fortunately, their sophomore directorial efforts in Game Night marks a huge improvement by leaps and bounds.
Let’s start with the story. The high-concept premise itself sports an interesting hook. Sure, Mark Perez’s screenplay is mostly inspired by the aforementioned David Fincher’s movie. But the way he manoeuvres his story with a sneaky twist after twist and blends them altogether into an action-comedy mould is both fun and thrilling. The comedy mostly hit the spot and the ensemble cast is spot-on. Jason Bateman does his usual wry everyman persona and it definitely works in his favour. He pairs well with Rachel McAdams, who has never been this funny since her early Mean Girls era. One scene where Annie tries to remove the bullet from Max’s wounded arm using an online assistance is particularly hilarious. This really shows how amusing they are pairing together as an onscreen couple.
Game Night also gets an extra boost from an equally competent supporting cast. Kyle Chandler is perfectly typecast as Max’s big-bully brother. Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris add another solid support as a supposedly happily-married couple torn by his wife’s past with a celebrity. Billy Magnussen hits the spot as the goofball Ryan, while Sharon Horgan made quite an impression as the level-headed Irish colleague, Sarah. Then, there’s Jesse Plemons who made good use of his stoic expression to play a creepy police officer.
As for the director duo, Francis Daley and Goldstein prove to be an accomplished visual stylist after all. They certainly know how to stage a scene and has a keen eye for genuine visual flair. For instance, look out for the elaborate catch sequence seamlessly put together in a long take.
Game Night is also surprisingly a triumph in the action department. Frankly, I didn’t expect this at all. But the action sequences regardless of car chases, fistfights or shootouts are well-staged with clarity like a seasoned pro. Barry Peterson’s cinematography is also worth praising here, particularly the way he utilises the brilliant tilt-shift camerawork to make the surroundings and objects like miniatures from a board game.
Although Game Night tends to wobble a little with its sometimes uneven action-comedy hybrid while Cliff Martinez’s synth-heavy score feels like it should belong to an über-cool minimalist movie, it was nevertheless a fun movie worth participating for.