Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Game Night - a mirth-inducing madcap escape night gatecrashed by the mob (cinemas from Friday 2 March)

Stop the press. Making me cry in the cinema is an easy task for filmmakers. But making me cries tears of laughter accompanied by sustained out-loud chuckles is a complete rarity.

So hats off to John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein who managed it with the incredibly well-judged Game Night based on Mark Perez's script.

Three couples gather for a weekly game of board games and mind games. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and Max (Jason Bateman) met while competing at a pub quiz. Now there are competing against Max's stressed sperm to make a baby. Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and Kevin (Lamorne Morris) have been together for nearly forever, but don't quite know everything about each other. Ryan (Billy Magnussen) brings a different identikit date to the meetup each week. There used to be a fourth couple, but Debbie and Gary (Jesse Plemons) split up. He's a creepy cop who lives next door to Annie and Max with his white terrier, unhappy that he is now being excluded from the fun.

Into this competitive harmony comes Max's older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) whose winning streak in life seems unassailable. He organises an over-the-top game night, a kidnap mystery using a local gaming company. However, his own business dealings come back to haunt him and after a while, the clueless couples - joined for the ride by Ryan's latest date Sarah (Sharon Horgan) - figure out that the frenzied scene that plays out in Brooks' living room is more realistic and sinister than it should have been.

There are gun shots, car chases, slipping, sliding, pauses in the middle of the action for couples to argue, and some beautifully directed and edited scenes that surprise in ridiculously mirth-inducing ways. There are twists aplenty, but when the premise is so implausible, there's no harm stretching disbelief just that little bit further.

The bleeding sleeve that disappears is forgivable. The fact that Lamorne Morris and Sharon Horgan are just playing themselves (or at best are cast as Winston from New Girl and Sharon from Catastrophe) is fine since their characters work so well in the Cluedo-esque ensemble.

Horgan's delivery of sarcasm together with McAdams' attempts at bravado are the icing on a very sweet cake. Barry Peterson's suburban cinematography is exquisite and the tilt-shift model-like shots finally make sense in the closing credits. And while I wish Bunbury and Morris (Michelle and Kevin) had been given more to do in the screenplay, it's worth waiting until the very end of the credits to discover more about the man at the centre of their disagreement.

Cancel your own game night and head to a local cinema from Friday 2 March to see Game Night. It's the funniest film I've seen so far this year ... and it's far better than the trailer.

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