Game of Death (Giorgio Serafini, 2010)
An amusing, and unintended, consequence of my watching Giorgio Serafini’s Game of Death earlier this week is that it ended up making me like Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, released a year later, and which I watched back in March, even less than I did before. There’s a great deal of similarity between the two movies, but Game of Death is (slightly) better in that it knows it’s a genre thriller with nothing new to say, and doesn’t try to be anything else, while Haywire was trying to be Soderbergh’s last good movie, The Limey, and instead ended up being a genre thriller with nothing new to say, though I’m pretty sure you still can’t convince Steven Soderbergh of that two years later.
Plot: Marcus (White Men Can’t Jump‘s Wesley Snipes) is an undercover CIA agent. In the opening scene, we see him tailing a priest, Clarence (Ghostbusters‘ Ernie Hudson), back to his church, after which the two have a brief conversation that leads to Marcus telling the tale of his last operation. It should have been an open-and-shut case—Marcus was to act as bodyguard to one Mr. Smith (Licence to Kill‘s Robert Davi) during a very illegal arms transaction with billionaire Redvale (The Last Don‘s Quinn Duffy), then assassinate Smith. But things start going wrong from the get-go—first Smith has a heart attack on the way to the meet, so Marcus diverts them to a hospital where Smith is placed under the care of a doctor named Rachel (The Help‘s Aunjanue Ellis), while Marcus, thanks to hospital regulations, is forced to surrender his weapons. Meanwhile, two of the other CIA agents on the case, Zander (Fist of the North Star‘s Gary Daniels) and Flor (Kill Bill‘s Zoe Bell), have gone rogue. They’re waiting for Marcus to facilitate the meet, after which their plan is to kill Smith, kill Redvale, kill Marcus, and walk off with a hundred million dollars. Not a bad plan, as long as Marcus isn’t standing in the way…
This is the kind of thriller that defines the term “bog-standard”; there is not a thing that goes on anywhere in this movie that is not predictable almost from the first few frames. Which is okay as long as you’re looking for a predictable thriller (and let’s be honest, we all have at various times. Otherwise the Lifetime Movie Network would have gone under years ago). As is often the case, Aunjanue Ellis is the best thing about this from an acting perspective, but most of the cast does a reasonable job with what they’re given. Unfortunately, what they’re given isn’t much. The script is laughable in some places; you can forgive Kurbaan (above) some of its slip-ups where the dialogue is concerned because the writers aren’t native English speakers. Here, you have to assume it’s because the scriptwriters just didn’t care enough to stop us having to wallow through cliché after cliché in between action sequences. That sort of thing annoys me; your mileage may vary. This is only one to grab when you can’t find a single other thriller that looks worth your time. This one isn’t, either, but you’ve probably seen (slightly) worse. * ½
BONUS VIDEO! For those of you who didn’t recognize the quotes that gave me the subtitle of the review and all the photo captions.