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REEL ACTION: Surviving the Game, starring Rutger Hauer and Ice-T

Jun. 24, 2011by: Eric Walkuski

SURVIVING THE GAME (1994)
Rating: 3 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here

Tagline: Jack Mason knows he's going to die someday. But today he's not in the mood.

Directed by: Ernest Dickerson
Starring: Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey and F. Murray Abraham.

THE PLAN: Down on his luck bum Mason (Ice-T) gets "hired" to be a wilderness guide by a couple of wealthy hunters (Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton); after flying to the dense wilderness of Washington state, he quickly finds out that he's the intended game. But he's not goin' out like no punk!

THE KILL: Some movies are plainly more watchable because of their casts; the story is so-so, and with a lesser group of actors, the thing would be a lazy exercise, but with just the right assemblage of faces, it works. That's absolutely the case with SURVIVING THE GAME, which presents us with a story we've been privy to many, many times before, but because it has been cast with such a splendidly eccentric group, the movie is a solid piece of entertainment.


Just two guys, happily sittin' in traffic...

Clearly inspired by Richard Connell's immortal short story "The Most Dangerous Game", SURVIVING THE GAME takes that basic premise and carries it out without too much diversion or creativity. The prey is a homeless man who suffered a tragedy that lost him his wife and child, as well as his job and dignity. Surprisingly well-played by Ice-T (this was still around the time he was thought of as a rapper, remember), Mason's just an everyman whose life has crumbled into nothingness; he holds his own life in little regard. His only two friends are an old man and a dog and, in almost comical fashion, both die practically on the same day. Prompted to just end it all, Mason's about to throw himself in front of a truck when he's saved by a good Samaritan (Dutton), who tries to convince him he's got something to live for. Little does Mason know that this dude has other plans.

The set-up for SURVIVING THE GAME takes a little while; we spend more time than you'd think in the rocky part of the city where Mason and his fellow hobos congregate. But after he meets Burns (Hauer), the good Samaritan's partner in hunting expeditions, we're whisked off to the wild, where the film's allowed to delve right into what makes it so entertaining: its eccentric cast of supporting characters.


You really don't want to challenge Gary Busey to a staring contest...

Let's see: You've got Gary Busey, playing a psychiatrist (let that sink in for a minute), who has a really great speech describing the day in which he had to kill his beloved dog with his bare hands. There's John C. McGinley as an angry Texan recovering from the death of his child (ah, he doesn't know it, but he and Mason have something in common!). F. Murray Abraham plays a Wall Street raider who brings his son (William McNamara) out for his first hunt. You'd think he'd kind of give his son a heads up regarding the nature of these hunts, but nope; the kid is just as freaked out by the situation as Mason is when it becomes apparent what the plan is.

What's apparent here is that the entire cast is having a great time. The villains snarl effectively (Busey in particular goes way over the top and beyond) and Ice-T really sells Mason's panic, and ultimately, his determination to not only live, but to take these psychos down. Director Ernest Dickerson knows that he's got a solid cast here, so he really let's them do their thing.

Sure, there are tons of lapses in logic; the hunters insist on announcing themselves every few minutes with a call of "Mason!" (how many real hunters holler at their prey while they're hunting them?) and their cabin contains a ghastly room filled with the heads of their vanquished hobos. (Even though this is in the wilderness, anyone can still come and peek in this room's window if they had a mind to.) If the really movie falters anywhere, it's in the third act. The hunt for Mason loses steam all too quickly, and aside from Hauer's Burns, the villains who remain in the end are the least colorful. The final moments of the film are especially abrupt and unsatisfying, really spoiling what's otherwise been a very good time.

You really aren't expecting literature from SURVIVING THE GAME, however; taken for what it is - a B-movie with some gorgeous scenery, energetic action sequences and a talented array of character actors - it's a bulls-eye.


Theatrical trailer, early 90s style!

TOP DIALOGUE: Mason: "Never underestimate a man who's got nothin' to lose."

Rutger Hauer's Burns: "Life's true pleasures are so unpredictable."

TOP ACTION: Ice-T's fight to the death with Gary Busey is as crazy and nasty as you'd expect.

TOP DEATH: Mason sets a glorious trap for one of his hunters, which results in the destruction of a four-wheeler and the man's lower half. Yowch!

FEMALE EXPLOITATION: I kid you not: there are literally no women in this movie. If there are, not one of them has a single line of dialogue. Bummer.

DRINKING GAME: Drink every time you wonder why the fuck these guys insist on calling out Mason's name while they're supposed to be stealthily hunting him. You'll be hunting your own friends like a maniac before dawn.

TRIVIA: This was Ernest Dickerson's second big screen directorial effort, following JUICE.

The film had a budget of $7 million and it grossed $7 million.

BUY THE DVD HERE!

Tags: reel action

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1:38PM on 06/27/2011

power

Ice-T is the man. loved every second, pure entertainment, i miss the 90s.
Ice-T is the man. loved every second, pure entertainment, i miss the 90s.
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9:18PM on 06/24/2011
haha awesome, i watched this movie so many times as a kid. i never forget the trophy room haha
haha awesome, i watched this movie so many times as a kid. i never forget the trophy room haha
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9:18PM on 06/24/2011
haha awesome, i watched this movie so many times as a kid. i never forget the trophy room haha
haha awesome, i watched this movie so many times as a kid. i never forget the trophy room haha
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5:30PM on 06/24/2011

Entertaining flick.

It has to be one of the most underrated action movies during the 1990's. Ice-T is actually excellent in this movie. Rutger Hauer is great as well. This has an strong supporting cast but Charles S. Dutton and Gary Busey are the scene-stealers in this picture.

Although this movie came out after "John Woo's Hard Target". Since it has some of the same plot elements. I felt "Surviving the Game" was better with an stronger cast and believable action sequences. Only the finale between Ice-T and
It has to be one of the most underrated action movies during the 1990's. Ice-T is actually excellent in this movie. Rutger Hauer is great as well. This has an strong supporting cast but Charles S. Dutton and Gary Busey are the scene-stealers in this picture.

Although this movie came out after "John Woo's Hard Target". Since it has some of the same plot elements. I felt "Surviving the Game" was better with an stronger cast and believable action sequences. Only the finale between Ice-T and Rutger Hauer, i wish it had an strong conclusion. The ending comes off being silly but still, there is lot of entertainment here.
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+3
3:57PM on 06/24/2011

Love this movie

One of my favorite parts is when they are eating dinner the night before they will hunt Ice-t and they are having a convo about hunting their prey But little does Ice-t know that they are talking about him. Also when Gary Busy tells Ice-T his scar story about is dog... That is what you call a great scene of character build up during down time before the action begins.. great flick!
One of my favorite parts is when they are eating dinner the night before they will hunt Ice-t and they are having a convo about hunting their prey But little does Ice-t know that they are talking about him. Also when Gary Busy tells Ice-T his scar story about is dog... That is what you call a great scene of character build up during down time before the action begins.. great flick!
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2:51PM on 06/24/2011
Nailed it.

Plus, this movie has a real "mean streak." ;)
Nailed it.

Plus, this movie has a real "mean streak." ;)
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1:45PM on 06/24/2011
Great flick!
Great flick!
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+7
1:29PM on 06/24/2011
Yeah, Ice T starred in some pretty good flicks back then, Surviving the Game, Tresspass and New Jack City were great!
Yeah, Ice T starred in some pretty good flicks back then, Surviving the Game, Tresspass and New Jack City were great!
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12:49PM on 06/24/2011
I recently bought the DVD of this along with Trespass, another Ice-T classic.
I recently bought the DVD of this along with Trespass, another Ice-T classic.
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8:16PM on 06/24/2011
Trespass is awesome.
Trespass is awesome.
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