Game Night, 2018.
Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.
Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Danny Huston, and Chelsea Peretti.
A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery.
The thing that surprised me the most about Game Night is how well-directed it is. Think about it, how many mainstream studio-backed comedies have good cinematography? Can you even name a scene in a comedy that was well-framed, lit or shot? Well, this one is – and that’s just the icing on the cake.
We follow the typical story of a man, Max (Jason Bateman), and a woman, Annie (Rachel McAdams) who meet at a bar on trivia night, fall in love and get married because there’s no one as competitive as them. They host weekly game nights with their friends, but don’t invite their creepy cop neighbour Gary (Jesse Plemons) since his divorce. One day Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) pops up and decides that to up the ante on his childhood rivalry with Max by staging a game night when one of the guests is kidnapped and the others have to rescue them. You know, that classic story.
Written by Mark Perez, Game Night is one of the best-written comedies in years. Every set up is properly payed off later in the film as well as lots of funny throwaway lines. When Brook’s plan of staging a kidnapping is ruined by real kidnappers showing up, the film turns into a way funnier version of David Fincher’s The Game. You can sort of anticipate where the story will go next, but Perez has several surprises in store. There are even references to other films by Fincher, and the script works several set pieces into board game references ranging from Mouse Trap, to Life, to hot potato, to a hilarious scene with Rachel McAdams playing Operando on a real person after a prop gun turns out to be real and loaded.
Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have been kind of hit-or-miss up to this point. While the duo wrote and directed the terrible Vacation-reboot, they also wrote last year’s surprising hit Spider-Man: Homecoming and are scheduled to direct DC’s Flashpoint. In Game Night they show to have an acute awareness of space and physical comedy. The film moves seamlessly room by room while using props and location to enhance both the action and the comedy. Together with cinematographer Barry Peterson they give us the best use of tilt-shift in a comedy film that makes the locations look like a game board, and a one-take action scene to rival the one in Black Panther.
While Hollywood has recently taken a liking to somehow putting regular suburban people into life-threatening situations with explosions and CGI, Game Night gives us a good twist on this formula, by having the characters unaware of the danger – this culminates in a hilarious scene where Rachel McAdams intimidates a biker bar with what she thinks is a fake gun. Speaking of McAdams, she and Bateman have great chemistry in the film, and the script actually portrays their marriage as a real one with complications and inside jokes that feel believable.
Character is another thing that Game Night does right. Not only the main characters are likeably, but the supporting cast is great as well. From Kyle chandler as the better-looking and more successful brother, to Chelsea Peretti’s brief but funny cameo to Lamorne Morris doing an impressive Denzel Washington impression. The person who absolutely steals the show, however, is Jesse Plemons as the creepy cop Gary. Plemons dominates playing dead-pan, and the film easily moves between funny and terrifying whenever he’s on screen, always standing with his dog like it’s attached to his body.
That the film hired none other than Cliff Martinez (Drive, The Neon Demon) to compose the score is nothing sort of genius. I never knew I needed a comedy featuring synth music until I found myself listening to the score of Game Night on repeat after leaving the cinema.
If you’re looking for a comedy that offers not only big laughs, but impressive camerawork and music, and also isn’t afraid of being dark and suspenseful, look no further than what should very well be the next big comedy hit. Game Night may restore your faith in studio comedies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★