With Seven, director Fincher tapped into a collective fear of the consequences of pure evil. With his latest he tries his hand at selling us the horrors of an individual's total isolation. The Game displays a similar mastery of mood - under-lit scenes, frantic editing, an often subliminal sound-scape and solid performances. It is nevertheless a dubious undertaking.Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) - a reincarnation of Wall Street's Gordon Gekko - is filthy rich and thoroughly anti-social. His idea of a great night is a sandwich in front of the CNN financial report - even on his birthday.
Unexpectedly, his wayward brother Conrad (Penn) gives him a mysterious gift certificate. It's from Consumer Recreation Services, a company specialising in tailoring 'games' according to the needs of an individual. Van Orton is understandably hesitant - he doesn't like surprises - but curiosity gets the better of him and decides to get with the program.
After a barrage of questionnaires and psychological tests, he is told his application for the game has been rejected. He can't believe it, and we really can't be sure, for a series of inexplicable and sometimes terrifying events begin to befall on our hapless hero. Is the game actually under way?
An unnerving question that both Van Orton and the audience have to grapple with is: how do you play a game with no rules, especially when its object is to find out its object?
If you felt cheated by the end of The Usual Suspects, then you might be wise to leave The Game before it ends. As Van Orton's odyssey unfolds, the increasing plot improbabilities escalate into absurdity, finally culminating in a 'punchline' guaranteed to make even the most ardent fans of the impossible groan in disbelief.
As a morality tale The Game only just makes the grade - man discovers what's important in life - though Capra's It's a Wonderful Life did it so much better.As a true thriller it wanes, deriving most of its pleasurable moments from obvious cinematic references - Welles' The Trial, Frankenheimer's Seconds and lots of Hitchcock. The Game does have its moments, but the question remains, 'Can it beat a decent game of Scrabble?' ---Paul Garcia