Surviving the Game (Arrow Recommends)

Surviving the Game (Arrow Recommends)
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"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: A homeless man who can’t catch a break gets the chance of a lifetime when he’s hired by some eccentric rich dude (Rutger Hauer) to be a hunting guide.  He’s brought into the wilderness, meets the quirky hunters and soon finds out that he’s the prey. The moral of the story? Never accept a job from Rutger Hauer.

“You are missing the best part, Mr. Mason. When you're eating the flesh of the pig... look into his little beady eyes. That way you will be devouring his soul. ” – Doc Hawkins

LOWDOWN: The “dude being hunted for sport by other dudes” subgenre never gets old for me. THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME started it all in 1932 (based on the short story by Richard Connell), HARD TARGET owned it in 1993 (love that f-ing movie, probably my favorite JCVD opus) and a year later SURVIVING THE GAME nade dropped on screens. I hadn’t seen it since its initial release in 94 but I remembered digging it. But that was way back then. So I figured I’d lock, load and give it another shot to see if I could still recommend it to y’all and yup, it came through. Allow me to expand…

SURVIVING THE GAME (WATCH IT HERE or get the DVD HERE) was Director Ernest Dickerson follow-up to his taunt and stylish 1992 thriller JUICE starring Tupac and once again he managed to show-off his visual flair (those areal shots were epic) like a champ. And not one set was used in the making of this flick; everything was shot on location within the wild and as captured by Dickerson’s keen eye it lent an air of added authenticity to the proceedings. The cherry on top was Dickerson's tendency to go full horror on my ass in terms of bleak tone, oppressive mood, horror-ish shot compositions (loved that “Ice T’s eyes pop out within the darkness” shot) and sucker-punch gory scenes.

Nice to see that the guy always had a flair for the macabre in him! As you should know he went to direct DEMON KNIGHT, BONES (aka Nightmare on Snoop Street), an episode of MASTERS OF HORROR, a handful of THE WALKING DEAD entries and more! I so dig it when an action films take on horror colors now and again and this bad-boy played that card with flair. The calculated pace delivered too! The movie ably set up its lead character’s plight, gave the dire situation and the main villains room to breathe and then, just at the right time, BAM, it let her rip!  Although Ice-T was mucho affable as the hero (I esteemed that he started off a bit clumsy to then evolve into a badass once pushed too far - nice arc), he was somewhat out-acted by the baddies on hand.

This one somewhat pimped out the “who’s who” of character actor villains all in one sitting. Namely Gary Busey (playing an EVIL version of Mr. Joshua… think about that one for a sec), Rutger Hauer, John C. McGinley and F. Murray Abraham. The gents sank their teeth DEEP into their roles and milked them bone dry for all they were worth. Straight up; Busey’s monologue about how he got that scar on his face was alone worth the sit down. The out there lines, Busey’s impeccable and unpredictable delivery – I was smiling ear to ear. What a scene!  NOTE: The great Charles S. Dutton also popped up to whoop that acting derriere, but I can’t say too much about him i.e. spoilers.

What was a tad frustrating about SURVIVING THE GAME though was that they had the killer premise and the stand out cast on their side; but technically, it wasn’t always up to snuff. The score was a bit all over the place but worse of all, many of the action scenes didn’t deliver 100%  due to either a lack of coverage or a clumsiness in execution (that mano et mano in pitch dark would have owned if I got to see what the bleep was going on).

The hand-to-hand fights were undeniably the weakest link when it came to the wam-bam, with so-so choreographies and editing. Don’t get me wrong here, even at its worse, the physical get downs were acceptable – but I yearned for it to be top notch from top to bottom. I guess my last peeve would be that the acting by some of the lesser know talent was subpar in places – but nothing to spank the monkey about. Although SURVIVING THE GAME did have its flaws, I can't deny the hard cold facts, I had a blast with it!

The thing was fast paced, it carried a couple of grisly surprises and again…what a cast! I feel I say this often, but I get paid by the word (joke) so I’ll vomit yet again: for me, there’s an unfiltered beauty about real stunt work, real explosions and real locations. No green screen, no CGI, the real f*cking deal – down and dirty.  SURVIVING THE GAME had all that goodness to share and in spades. Give it a shot and when you hear that Busey scar speech – think of me. :)



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