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Game Night

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I don’t do “Game Night” in real-life because…I just don’t like people. This is a personal failing and I don’t expect sympathy, but I believe if my game nights were anything like the ones experienced by Max (Jason Bateman), Annie (Rachel McAdams) and their friends, I could get into it a little more.

And by that, I do mean violent kidnappings. I can totally get behind that. I even have a list.

Max and Annie on the surface are the type of couple you’d like to see drowned in a shallow pond, but once you get to know them, they’re quite a likable pair. Super-competitive in everything from board games to charades to Galaga, they host a weekly gaming night in their home with friends. Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) are the adorable couple who’ve been together since childhood – at least until a game of “Never Have I Ever” – and sharp as wet-cardboard and perpetually single Ryan (Billy Magnussen) brings a new face (same basic template) to every Game Night. They have a “thing” and that thing is socially fun and competitive and it’s humming along fine until Brooks (Kyle Chandler) blows into town.

Brooks, Max’s super successful and best of everything brother, is in town and hijacks a game night of his own. Max has strong feelings about his brother’s success and the stress of keeping up could literally be impairing him in the baby-maker. Brooks’ gaming night is full of cheese and great wine and kicks off with a fake kidnapping which becomes the real thing to his oblivious guests. It takes them more than a minute to catch up, and by the time they realize it’s all too real, lives are in danger.

Their intensely creepy neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons) is recently divorced and overly attached to his dog. He’s the odd man out, wanting to be a part of the gaming, but still too emotionally wrapped up in his wife’s departure. There’s a funny scene at the beginning regarding a clandestine Game Night and everyone going to extremes to avoid being seen by Gary.

Danny Huston (the guy becoming my generation’s Ray Wise) and Michael C. Hall make appearances in fun ways, and even though they’re not shining examples of the human condition.

Game Night is darkly funny with tilt-shift scene credits and transitions that keep the mood light, even with people being beaten up and shot. John Francis Daley manages to keep up the frenetic pace of multiple characters while keeping them fresh and funny. Everyone has a secret and a reveal that dovetails nicely with the plot without overshadowing any one person or group. Game Night manages to do what Downsizing (2017) couldn’t: taking a dark subject – in this case, felony armed kidnapping – but keeping it focused on the (darker) comedy without resorting to ridiculous tropes and generally bumming the audience out. This movie knows what it wants to be and it fires on all cylinders. It’s successful and gets strong recommendation from me.

Game Night (2018) is Rated R for swears, people getting shot, comical bleeding, bum fighting, and sexytimes talk with no actual sexytimes.

Game Night is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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