A homeless man is hired as a survival guide for a group of wealthy businessmen on a hunting trip in the mountains, unaware that they are killers who hunt humans for sport, and that he is their new prey.
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Two New York cops get involved in a gang war between members of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia. They arrest one of their killers and are ordered to escort him back to Japan. In Japan, ... See full summary »
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Mason, who lives on the streets, wants to cease his life when on the same day his two best friends die: His dog and an older man with whom he shared his food and roof. Just in time Cole, from a charity organization, can prevent his suicide and also offers him a quite well paid job as servant for a hunting party in the Rocky Mountains. Mason accepts the job and flies with them to a hut in the wilderness where they prepare everything for the four rich businessmen who want to hunt something special. Mason does not yet know that he is the victim of their sports that should lead to the basic insticts of man, but they did not count with his cleverness... Written by
In one of our local video store chains, if a movie was considered morally objectionable it was emblazoned with a huge yellow sticker which proclaimed that it was 'Strictly over 18's'. To me, as a youngster, this was like showing a light bulb to a moth. By the time 'Surviving the Game' was released, I was already a seasoned Ice-T and Bodycount fan and so would happily devour any of the nonsensical films which he would associate himself with (a trait which still exists to a certain degree, albeit somewhat diminished at this stage thanks a lot 'Leprechaun In Da Hood'). Those yellow stickers never failed me; they drew me to movies such as the Tom Savini remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), Body Melt (1993) and Bad Taste (1987). The peculiar thing about 'Surviving the Game' was that it was only classified with a 15 certificate in the UK, but as I was growing up in Ireland and they had just introduced their own film classification system (one which still prohibits the release of many, many titles today*) one can only assume that they were being extra vigilant.
Such vigilance, however, was not displayed by any staff members at any of my frequented VHS rental outlets and so I was pretty much free to choose whatever I wanted and on one fine day I took the afternoon off school and retreated to my abode to wallow in some Ice-T based goodness.
I regret none of those actions and this all came flooding back when I re-watched STG last week. The first thing that struck me was the plethora of character actors on show, Charles S. Dutton, Ernest R. Dickerson, F. Murray Abraham, Gary Busey, Jack Mason, John C. 'Dr Cox' McGinley and Rutger Hauer all come out in force as a group of hunters in pursuit of the deadliest game of all man.
The man in question is Jack Mason (Ice-T) a man battling his demons to the extent that he has lost everything, his wife, his child, his home. Now living rough on the streets of Seattle, he even loses his best friend when his dog is run over by a careless taxi driver in the first few minutes of the movie. The altercation with the driver brings Mason to the attention of Walter Cole (Dutton), a man posing as a charity worker, but who is in reality a recruitment officer for Thomas Burns (Hauer), an entrepreneur who facilitates the immoral bloodlusts of the rich and ethically vacuous Mason is brought to Burns' offices whereupon he is offered a job (with very little details provided), he reluctantly accepts and before he knows it, he's held up in a remote cabin in the wilderness with half a dozen of the most peculiar characters you're likely to see share a dinner together. It doesn't take long before their motives are made clear and Mason is cast out on his own, given a small head start before being tracked by the hunters.
Guess what? The hunters soon become the hunted and the tables get well and truly turned. OK, so it sounds dreadful and in many ways, it is. Yet, it is so enjoyably dreadful that you soon find yourself letting go and immersing yourself in Mason's plight. There is an intensity and a unique self-awareness which makes this stand out from similar movies and eventually, this makes this a remarkably endearing viewing experience.
It's violent without being excessively so, it has just the right amount of humour to maintain a suspension of disbelief and by the time comeuppance is delivered, you'll be cheering along. It was refreshing to see a strong African-American lead actor at the time and whist one wouldn't go as far as to call it ground-breaking in any sense of the word, that fact is certainly notable. Ice-T is quite far removed from his hip-hop persona and suits the crusty, dreadlocked role very well. Hauer and Busey are typically and wonderfully bonkers and the support of Abraham and McGinley are both worthy additions.
It was a pleasure to be reminded of a time when action movies could be so enjoyable and when character actors would partake in the movie without dominating it. Admittedly, the rush that I got for simply acquiring it wasn't there this time, but I think that was due to the lack of the yellow sticker.
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