What? Another “people being hunted by people” movie? Jeepers, there must be over a dozen films already with that plot, plus the last season of TV’s Wrecked and an old episode of Gilligan’s Island! BTW: this movie was pulled last year because of Trumpy’s tweets! He didn’t like it! LOL!! Well, kiddies, it’s baaack!!
While this IS another ‘people hunting people’ movie, this one has the Blumhouse Productions spin of gore & humor mixed in, along with a twist here and there.
Starting off with your generic dozen seemingless random people being drugged and then dropped off somewhere in Vermont, or Arkansas (or is it even in the USA?), they’re quick to realize they are part of a Hunger Games sport: kill or BE kill! Weapons are provided, but the hunters are quite good at this, picking off their quarry (Ike Barinhotlz, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, and more) one by one. Of course, you gotta be careful of those booby traps, too! Ouch!
As the pickin’s get slimmer we learn that this ‘hunt’ is called Manorgate, an internet rumor that’s been circulating for some time, and it seems the only ones left alive are righteous big-mouth Gary (Ethan Suplee), good ‘ol boy Don (Wayne Duvall), and ace hard-core former soldier, Crystal (Betty Gilpin). After traveling around, Crystal and Don discover that they ain’t in Kansas anymore (literally!) and find a Croatian refugee detention center. Thinking they’re saved by the U.S. Consulate there, Crystal and Don decide to turn the tables on their antagonists, and take the hunt to them, which ends with a brutal mano-a-mano fight between Crystal and Manorgate executive Athena (Hilary Swank) that’s so vicious and nasty, it rivals the fights from the Bourne movies and Atomic Blonde!
Now, you’d think with SO many of these kinds of movies out there, this would be just another cookie-cutter film, right? Well, screenwriters Nick Cuse (TV’s The Watchmen, The Leftovers) and Damon Lindleof (World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness) decided to have some fun with this overused genre and spice it up with dark comedy, lotsa sudden blood & gore, and (this is where Trumpy got unhinged) lovingly thumbing their noses at the Liberals! No where is this best represented than the liquor store scene where a mom & pop (Amy Madigan & Reed Birney) hilariously discuss politics… with rifles.
The script is smart, has biting wit, is fast-paced, and doesn’t condescend like others before it. Consider Crystal’s gripping monologue about the jack rabbit and the box turtle; it’s doesn’t go the way you think the Mother Goose story usually goes! These characters aren’t one-dimensional, they have a purpose, and best of all, you never see things coming as the shocking twists and turns fly in from nowhere. There aren’t the cliched pitfalls and dopey tropes other movies have; a refreshing change for once.
You may not have heard of director Craig Zobel (Z For Zachariah, Compliance), but the man knows how to expertly shoot a slaughter film with dollops of dark humor and a damn good fight scene. Gilpin is as lethal and cunning as John Wick, with an off-kilter quirkiness that makes you root for her. Swank is scary-good and, I gotta give kudos to the filmmakers here, they surprised me from the first ten minutes of the movie. This film may be heartless, brutal, savage, blood-soaked, and even funny at times, but one thing it isn’t, and that’s boring!
Surviving the Game (1994)
Honestly, there are SO many movies about humans hunting humans it’s ridiculous. Starting in 1932 with The Most Dangerous Game all the way to The Hunger Games (which is a rip-off of Japan’s Battle Royale). This one is about as cliche as they come and just about as bad, even though it had a remarkably good cast.
Seattle, Washington has dread-locked homeless Mason (Ice-T) having a very bad week: both his dog and best friend
have both died and he’s all alone in the world. Luckily, he’s befriended by Walter Cole (Charles Dutton) who offers Mason a job with a friend of his. This friend is Thomas Burns (Rutger Hauer) who runs a hunting lodge somewhere in the remote mountains of Oregon. Invited as a handyman, Mason meets the other guests that weekend: psycho-psychiatrist Hawkins (Gary Busey), oil tycoon Griffin (John C. McGinley), wall street exec Derek Wolfe, Sr. (F. Murry Abraham) and his young 20-something son, Derek, jr (William McNamara) and Cole.
Ah, but what Mason doesn’t know is that, in this hunting party, he’s the prey! Given a head-start, Mason runs into the woods as the guys give chase on ATV’s and motorcycles. Being resourceful, Mason outwits and out-thinks the blood-thirsty guys, except for Derek, jr, who wants nothing to do with this ‘sport’. One by one, Mason manages to either pick-off a hunter or have one of them eliminated through their own internal bickering. Kill Team Six is pretty soon is whittled down to just Burns as the ending is about as stupid as you can get.
Eric Bernt (Vegas Baby, The Echo) wrote this very hackneyed screenplay, full of forced scenes, silly and laughable dialogue, and a truly mediocre plot. Plot holes abound as does a ludicrous ending that makes you LOL. It does, however, have one particular scene that stands out: Gary Busey’s monologue about cherry bombs and his pit bull dog. It’s on a par with Robert Shaw’s speech from Jaws about the USS Indianapolis. The actors do what they can with this terrible script, but what’s even worse is the direction.
Ernest R. Dickerson, best known for directing Juice and Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight, but has done nothing but TV shows since 2004. This movie doesn’t help his career any as most of his shots look like first takes or rehearsal footage; it’s that bad. Ice-T (aka Tracey Marrow) was just starting out as an actor and wasn’t quite there yet, but the others were well established. Hauer, Dutton, and Abraham are the A-listers trying to hold this picture together, while Busey is the wild card, and McGinley keeping up.