The Game

This 1997 thriller is fairly entertaining nonsense if all you’re looking for is 128 minutes of diversion. But if you’d like something more from David Fincher, the director of Seven, don’t get your hopes up; in retrospect, one wonders how much of the previous film came from Fincher’s collaborators. A wealthy, jaded, self-centered businessman (Michael Douglas) gets enlisted in a mysterious game as a birthday present from his wastrel younger brother (Sean Penn). A conspiratorial manipulation of everything around him, including even the newscast he watches on TV, it winds up consuming and perhaps even destroying his life. Though a paranoid plot of this kind has clear metaphysical implications, most of them prove to be fairly banal, and on a plot level screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris don’t even try to make the details add up. What emerges is a very poor man’s North by Northwest without much moral nuance and a decreasing number of thrills. Most of the kicks have to do with seeing Douglas’s unpleasant character get his comeuppance, along with some OK turns from the other actors: Deborah Kara Unger (Crash), Armin Mueller-Stahl, James Rebhorn, Carroll Baker, and Peter Donat. (JR)

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