Whether it be through Netflix or unending visits to the local video store, we’ve all seen them: the shelves of movies that sit there forgotten, collecting dust. Granted, once we’ve looked away from the New Release walls, those other shelves are primarily seen only out of the corner of one’s eye; an obstruction on the way to check-out line. This new series is dedicated to those neglected titles, highlighting a different one worth blowing the dust off of and popping into the DVD player or VCR, if you still have one.
For my second entry of the series, I decided to go with a slightly darker tone, choosing a film that didn’t necessarily deserve the fanfare it deserved. The Game, is perhaps the least known of David Fincher’s (Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room) dark portrayals. Filmed after the release of Se7en, The Game made only a small box office splash in the US, grossing a little more than $48.2 million. The film would go on to also make another $60 million worldwide, along with $20.3 in the video market, where you can now find it.
The Game revolves around Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a man who seemingly has it all, but makes the choice that his career is more important than his family, eventually costing him his wife and making him live a life of solitude. So what do you give a man that has it all, or so he thinks? For his 48th birthday, Nicholas is presented with a once-in-a-lifetime gift from his brother Conrad (Sean Penn), in the form of a prepaid game through a company called Consumer Recreation Services. The game is role-playing adventure, designed to play itself out within the confines of Nicholas’ regular life. After being informed that he cannot handle the rigors of the game, Nicholas thinks he is done with the absurdity. However, strange things start happening around him, to the point where Nicholas realizes he is inside the game, but doesn’t know for sure if he has control of what is going on. As things start getting more violent and mind-altering, Nicholas must figure out what’s real, what isn’t, and who’s really getting played before he winds up dead.
The Final Word
The Game, like all of Fincher’s features, is a dark mirror of real life. This film specializes in grabbing hold of our inner most emotions, specifically those of fear, paranoia, and loss, and really wrenching them from your chest. A Fincher specialty, you never know if the film is going to give the audience the “happy ending” it craves. The constantly twisting film will have you guessing from beginning to end exactly what is going on.
Part of the reason the film didn’t succeed as well with audiences, despite its stellar reviews, is the lack of marque star. Douglas does a great job with the role, sort of combining his experience with Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, although let’s face it, he’s not the box office draw Brad Pitt (Se7en, Fight Club) is. Still, the movie moves along at a solid pace, and keeps the audiences attention by never successfully leading them down one path where they can put together the ending. A twist of a twist, where even the most well rounded movie viewer couldn’t watch and say “if you put this and this together, it definitely shows how we got here.” Underrated and underappreciated, this film deserves to be viewed twice. The first time for the experience, and the second time to appreciate the mastery it took to make it. Definitely worth you while to take it Off The Shelf.