The Game (1997) Poster

(1997)

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9/10
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one.
MartinHafer6 November 2018
Sean Penn is not the most popular celebrity and has created a few enemies over the years. However, this does not make his performance nor the film "The Game" something to avoid...and considering I am no fan of him as a person, the fact I loved the movie so much says a lot. THE GAME is exceptional...and you'd be doing yourself a favor by watching it. THE GAME is one heck of a great film, as I give it a well-deserved score of 9 because it's so well written and entertaining. It is one of the most exciting and riveting films of recent memory. You've got to see this film! I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil it.
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8/10
Fascinating
TheLittleSongbird12 January 2011
Essentially, The Game is an interesting and fascinating film. While it is overlong, and lacking in credibility at the end, plus it is not Fincher's best film(Se7en) it does have a lot to like about it. As is the case with David Fincher, the film is visually stunning, with intriguing shots and camera angles and bold, stylish colours. Fincher's direction is ambitious and also very good, while the film's pace is brisk, the script is well crafted and the story is a great idea and is very gripping up until the ending. The acting is very good, Michael Douglas is perfectly cast as the increasingly desperate pawn and Sean Penn is equally impressive in a role that I actually think could have been bigger. All in all, it is a very good film, yes with its foibles but it is an intriguing idea constructed in an entertaining way. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
Twisty-turny thriller makes for compelling viewing
Leofwine_draca20 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A thriller that is actually thrilling? A complex film which is actually easy to follow? Well, it doesn't happen very often, but occasionally a certain director can pull off a potentially baffling movie and turn it into something of a masterpiece. This is the case with THE GAME, a typically dark and mysterious, occasionally disturbing film from director David Fincher. It's very much in the style of Fincher's other films, so it might be a good idea to have some idea of what to expect with this one. Basically, nothing is what it seems and the whole perception of reality and normal life is subverted in THE GAME, which starts off with a typical businessman in a typically dull life and soon goes off in some very strange directions indeed. Okay, so it's mightily implausible and some parts just don't make sense when you think about them a lot, but this is a darn sight better than most contemporary thrillers which are content to rehash old ideas and styles. Yes, it's original, and yes, it's a cracker.

There is an almost constant stream of intense situations, puzzles, and little mysteries going on in this movie. There's always something odd or exciting going on which means that it holds the attention throughout, from the very beginning to the very ending. The acting is exceptional, with Michael Douglas perfectly cast as the hard businessman caught up in some very strange situations. Sean Penn also has a good, if small, role as his wacky brother. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent, as is the camera-work, music, everything. Everything is exactly right with this film. Watch out for the weird, yet brilliant moment when Douglas' television starts talking to him. You won't believe your eyes either. There are also about ten twist endings to enjoy before the credits roll. THE GAME is a compelling, twisting thriller which deserves to be see by everybody immediately. Required viewing for Fincher fans, this Hollywood thriller is more mind-bending than most.
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5/10
Functional gimmick expertly executed
SnoopyStyle26 September 2014
Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a lonely divorcée and extremely wealthy San Francisco investment banker. It's his 48th birthday which is the age of his father when he committed suicide in front of him. His absentee black sheep brother Conrad (Sean Penn) returns and gives him a card. What do you get for somebody who has everything? Consumer Recreation Services (CRS) which Conrad claims to be the best thing that ever happened to him. It's an unique game different for everybody. Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn) does the examination for CRS but Nicholas is rejected. Then he finds a dummy sprawled on his driveway with a CRS key and the game begins. Strange things start to happen. Waitress Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) spills on him and gets fired. They both get sucked into the CRS game.

This starts too slowly. There is a general lack of energy. The first 30 minutes almost lost me waiting for things to happen. It wants to be atmospheric. David Fincher is certainly good enough but I find myself not caring about Nicholas. He's a rich annoying douche with very little to like about him. It's an interesting if somewhat unoriginal gimmick. It would probably be better as a horror. I guess it would be helpful if I am naive enough to buy into the game. It would also be helpful to have a younger, sweeter, and more innocent actress to play Christine. The movie never escapes its manufactured sensibility. The point of most of this genre is to have Nicholas act paranoid and for the audience to question his sanity. His sanity is never in doubt in the mind of the audience. It's just one insane thing happening to him after another. And the cops would never say it's OK to murder him as long as Nicholas signed the contract. It's kinda stupid but the movie asks the audience to buy into it. It's so well made that I'm fine with how crazy this game gets. However it does go one too many turn. It would have been much better to leave with a sad ending.
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Kafkaiesque
Kirpianuscus24 September 2017
the atmosphere. and Michael Douglas. events, tension, fear. and the answer. a parable about contemporary challenges. the fundamental change defining a life. and one of warning films who could not be reduced at thriller/mystery film. because it is more a reflection support than a story of mysteries. and this is the key to discover this special film. special for the performances, details, precise construction.the Kafka mark has the basic role for define it as a not ordinary thriller.
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6/10
It's all in the game
Horst_In_Translation31 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Game" is a 1997 thriller starring Michael Douglas. It was directed by David Fincher following his work on "Se7en". As a whole, I had a decent time watching the film. It began to drag a little during the second half and they could have probably cut 15-20 minutes (for example the whole Mexico part) and it would have been equally good or even better with a runtime under two hours. At some point, I felt that the whole scheme scenario simply got a bit repetitive and at the end, it was also one twist too many for my taste when he "shot" his brother. That brother is played by Sean Penn shortly after his very first Academy Award nomination. The female main character is played by Deborah Kara Unger in her probably most known role. She disappeared from the limelight quickly unlike Penn and Douglas. Other than that, the far too early deceased James Rebhorn plays one of the bigger roles as well and I quite enjoyed watching him here.

My favorite scene of the film is probably the "White Rabbit" scene. The song is great and fit the tone and visuals of the return of the main character to his house just perfectly. The newscaster speaking to Douglas' character was a nice inclusion as well. I am a bit surprised this film did not get any awards attention at all. Fincher was very famous at that point already. However, I have to say that I had quite a few problems with the whole plot. There were a handful scenes that they could not have foreseen his actions entirely and yet it was supposed to look like they always had everything under control. And let's not forget the risk factor. If the Game was common for upper class, there must have been some kind of accident in the past if they risk the "players" having guns or to almost drown in their cars. People would have sued this company a hundred times already I guess. So, yeah, it is a truly unrealistic film for more reasons than one. But if you manage to look past that, you can still have a pretty good time. Nonetheless I have to say, I was slightly unimpressed with Douglas here. Given the fact we see the film completely from his perspective and he is in absolutely every scene from start to finish for two hours, his performance did not wow me the way I had hoped.

As a whole, Brancato and Ferris did a solid job with the script (also Douglas' character's transformation from being the grinch he is early on into who he is at the end), especially looking at the fact that they are the ones behind "Catwoman". It is by no means flawless, but certainly has its strengths. The movie itself can be described just like that. Recommended.
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7/10
"This is your game Nicholas, and welcome to it."
classicsoncall17 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
What I'll say about "The Game" is what I say about a lot of action/thriller films. As you're watching, the story engages with an innovative concept, uses clever twists and delivers excitement at a visceral level. But then, when you have time to reflect on the story, it kind of falls apart when you consider what would have been required to pull it all off. This one relied on Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) to make the decisions precisely that he did, especially at the very end when his attempted suicide was thwarted to put an end to the game. How did the 'Game' manipulators know he would even think of something like that? Sure they ran that psychological profile, but by the time came when he shot his brother Conrad (Sean Penn), Van Orton's judgment would have been severely put to the limit to act rationally.

There's also the complexity of the set-ups, which would have required months of planning and getting the right players in place to pull off the Game. No way could it have been rigged during the amount of time allotted for Van Orton to begin the game as soon as he signed off on it. And how about a situation like the one in which the taxi driver bailed and the cab plunged into the river? One assumes that the assassin bullets were blanks and the shattered objects that were hit were set off with miniature explosives, but how would you explain Van Orton making his way out of the sinking cab in time to avoid drowning? It all requires a major suspension of disbelief to view the events happening on screen as if they were actually possible.

And finally, who would have come up with the price tag for this extraordinary con job? Conrad didn't appear to have the means to pull it off, which leads us to the idea that Nicholas Van Orton would probably have had to foot the bill to scare the living crap out of himself. With that kind of money, he could have gotten himself a real birthday present.
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7/10
let's all play
lee_eisenberg31 May 2006
When "The Game" first came out in theaters, I didn't really know much about it, so when I went to see it, I was pleasantly surprised. Portraying San Francisco banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) getting involved in a "game" that invades his personal life, the movie keeps you guessing every minute. I can say with certainty that I couldn't have predicted anything that happened in the movie. And that ending was sure a shocker.

One thing about the movie that really struck me was Sean Penn's performance. It had just been two years since he'd affirmed his presence on the silver screen with "Dead Man Walking", and he was now starring in this most perplexing film (around the same time, he also starred in the equally perplexing "U Turn"). This all showed that he would soon have a solid filmography - not to mention become one of America's primary political activists.

But the point is that you're sure to have a good time watching this movie. It affirms David Fincher as a great director (he was also behind "Fight Club" and "Panic Room"), and makes me nostalgic for autumn, 1997, when we also had movies like "In & Out", "LA Confidential" and "Good Will Hunting". Very well done. Also starring Deborah Kara Unger, Armin Mueller-Stahl and James Rebhorn.
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7/10
Fincher's Followup to Seven
gavin694222 May 2015
Wealthy San Francisco financier Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) gets a strange birthday present from wayward brother Conrad (Sean Penn): a live-action game that consumes his life.

This is a strange film, and one that is hard to follow at times because it is so unexpected. One could rightly call it two hours of red herrings. Never get too attached to any characters or scenes, because they could change or disappear at any time. Is this a strength or a weakness?

What strikes me is that this film was picked up by Criterion. Not saying it did not deserve their attention, but it is a bit unusual. The movie is not old, foreign, independent... it is not a movie that slipped under the radar (though it is not as well-remembered today as some of Fincher's other films). Well played, Criterion.
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6/10
Who Dealt This Mess?
rmax3048232 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS.

I think it was Chuang Dz who is supposed to have asked: "Last night I dreamed I was a butterfly. Today, am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?"

The question, like this movie and many others before it, deals with the problem of distinguishing what is real from what is illusory. An old philosophical question. But this movie does a pretty good job of exploring the issue.

The plot, basically is this. Sean Penn enrolls his brother Michael Douglas in something called "the game." Douglas enrolls in this program, a birthday present, without having any idea of what it's all about. Douglas is an extremely wealthy control freak who lives a life encased in ice. He's brutal to subordinates, frosty to friends, and lives alone and likes it. Then things begin to go wrong. First little things. His pen leaks and stains his shirt at the airport. A waitress spills wine all over him at his favorite restaurant. A man seems to drop dead in front of him. Then things spin wildly out of control. People shoot at him. His bank accounts are emptied by the people running the game. A wild taxi ride ends up with him trapped in the car at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. He's drugged by someone he trusts and wakes up dressed in rags, his nose bloodied, with no ID and no money, in a rubbish-strewn Mexican graveyard. This has happened to me once or twice and I can tell you -- it's discomfiting.

It's like an episode from The Twilight Zone or John Fowles' novel "The Magus". Or, citing cinematic history, like the pod people or Carpenter's "The Thing" or Steve Railsback in "The Stuntman." Who belongs to the conspiracy and who doesn't. Or does ANYBODY not belong? And, as a birthday present, this "game" is like one of those really ugly ties that somebody gives you, that you know you'll never wear, but you can't take it back either.

Douglas gives a surprisingly good performance. He has greater range than I'd previously given him credit for. He shows the same disdain for others that he did as Gordon Gekko but he brings a fragility to the character as well. When he sees mouth-to-mouth resuscitation being given to someone he displays what could easily pass for real disgust. And when he cuts his hand on a sliver of glass, he grimaces with pain while he rinses it and wraps it in a handkerchief, the way the adventurer of "Romancing the Stone" would never do. And there is none of the comfortable matter-of-fact laid back quality he showed as a doctor and boy friend in "Coma." The other performers are competent but Douglas has the only role that stands out.

Interesting use of location shooting too. San Francisco doesn't look like an urban theme park here. Almost all the scenes take place at night on depopulated streets and they make San Francisco look about as ugly as it's possible to make the city look. The dialog doesn't leap out at you but it does have its quiet wit, which I'm not sure is always appropriate. Douglas loses a shoe to an attack dog. "There goes a thousand dollars," he remarks to his companion. "Your shoes cost a thousand dollars?" she asks. "That one did."

At the movie's end, just when you think the game is over, there's yet another twist coming, the last one leading Douglas to suicide by jumping off the roof of a high-rise hotel, only to land safely on an air bag judiciously placed below in what looks like the lounge of the Sheraton Palace. The movie is entirely implausible. As explained at the end, there isn't a believable moment in it. But it has the kind of illogic that a real nightmare has. The viewer may realize afterward that what has happened is impossible but Douglas has no way of finding that out. Everything seems askew to him as it does to us while we watch. Even Daniel Schorr on CNN has an interactive exchange with him. "This is impossible," says Douglas. "That's right," replies Schorr. "It's impossible. You're having a conversation with your TV set." If you can't trust Daniel Schorr something is seriously screwed up.

Alas, the denouement does flunk the believability test, and badly. Douglas has been put through hell, and it all turns out for the best -- all those dangerous pranks, the living nightmare, the humiliation, the druggings, the action movie clichés, all have made him "a better man." He's grateful. Whereas a lot of fairly normal people, myself included, would try to track down every soul involved in this scam and beat the living crap out of them. I'd make a particular point of celebrating my brother Sean Penn's next birthday by crowning him with a crowbar -- a real one.
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5/10
Surface-smart (with shallow results)
moonspinner5521 July 2006
Michael Douglas plays steely-cold investment banker in San Francisco who gets a curious birthday gift from his ne'er-do-well brother: membership in a mysterious club which promises to enrich Douglas' existence. At first, the pranks are elaborate but silly, but eventually the icy businessman encounters blackmail, entrapment, attempts on his life, and finds himself quickly losing his cool. The film, stylish yet limited, only works if you accept Douglas' reactions--but I didn't believe it for a minute when he freaks out in a public place because his briefcase won't open. There are not so many 'errors' in the film as outright implausibilities, and Michael Douglas as an actor finds himself in quicksand, occasionally looking just as ridiculous as the plot. Director David Fincher is becoming rather predictable: once again, he gets the proceedings off to a sluggish start (with stilted introductions to his players) and doesn't follow through on promising ideas or with basic logic (as when Douglas finally calls the police about a break-in, yet the scene is left unresolved). The picture is frustrating, but not in the suspenseful sense. It should've been smarter. ** from ****
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A movie that looks good on the surface, but has a totally contrived ending that is shameful to the viewer.
TxMike10 March 2000
"The Game" was highly recommended to me. I watched it, found myself caught up in the action and plot twists. Then, at the end, the movie literally insults the intelligence of the viewer with its contrived ending. You end up feeling cheated for the time you spent watching it, plus, you have absolutely no feelings about the characters. I gave it a "4", being generous, but I certainly can't recommend this for any mature viewer. Maybe teenagers!
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A game which isn't like the other ones
dbdumonteil6 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Possible Spoilers...

Unlike the acclaimed "Seven" and "Fight Club", "the Game" is a movie by David Fincher which tends to be underrated. But I still think that it's as stunning as the two quoted movies. Maybe the beginning of the movie doesn't see any good coming because Fincher used an outline used until one can't take any more: a well-off and strong man (Michael Douglas) who hides a terrible secret. For his birthday, his brother (Sean Penn) offers him a game designed by a mysterious firm and he accepts. From this moment, the movie takes an unexpected shape. Indeed, strange things happen in Douglas' surround. Has the game begun? Is Douglas' life in danger?

The movie is so well made that you believe it's a real thriller. It means that not only is this game a beautiful "trompe l'oeil" but it also might be something else like for example a conspiracy against Michael Douglas that aims at making him fall. Moreover, can we really call it a game? There are no rules and Douglas almost died several times. Thankfully, the end will make him come back down to earth by revealing him the simple truth: it was just a game, nothing else and he won.

As it was the case with his previous movie, Fincher wrote a disturbing and diabolic screenplay in spite of a few unlikelinesses (at the end of the movie, Douglas tries to commit suicide by falling from a very high building). On another hand, his command of the directing isn't necessary to prove and sustain continuously the interest.

After "Seven", he persists and scores and if for your next birthday one of your close relatives offers you a similar game to the movie, guess what you'll do...
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9/10
a thriller with enough paranoia and gusto to be one of the better films of 97
Quinoa198421 April 2006
The Game is basically an elaborate hoax, but unlike at least several others I've seen over the past several years, director David Fincher gets something really right about this one. The fact is the plot is so convoluted at times, so pumped with the kind of paranoia and surrealism to give Hitchcock the willies, that it almost works to annoy the viewer with the amount of manipulation it puts across. But, as it turns out, it is more about being manipulated than it is about, well, to put it this way, the audience isn't necessarily cheated as in a lessor picture. Adding to the intelligence level of the audience (or, for some, lack thereof) is superlative craftsmanship on the part of Fincher, who has carved out for him with his roster of films from the 90's quite a nook of edge-of-your-seat thrills that, at the least, isn't boring.

Michael Douglas is really excellent here as well, on par with some of his best work of the past decade and a half. At first his performance seems rather subdued, like a distilled version of those businessmen he plays in almost every other movie he's in. Again, part of the manipulation not just on the audience, but tenfold on the lead character. Nicholas is given a birthday present from his brother (Sean Penn), and it turns out to be 'the game', where anything can happen, and rather relentlessly at that. Soon Nicholas, cold and sort of detached from those around him, becomes super-duper paranoid and on his toes as the CRS (Consumer Recreational Services, ho-ho) goes to work on him. Pretty soon he has no money, no home, almost no life. Or is it? It's not too inappropriate to have the opening image over the credits of jigsaw puzzles is not far from what the film is itself, just one huge set laid out on the carpet.

If there could be anything that started to bug me as the film started to near its climax, it would be that, well, it's a reminder of both how much I like and dislike getting mind-f***ed by a movie, particularly a brilliantly shot-one like this. And the more I think about it, however, it may possibly lack something that Fincher's follow-up, Fight Club (possibly his best film to date), had, which was a connection of character to some kind of statement about something. Has the hoax that ends up showing itself as amounted to something in the way that it should've, or could've? The cat-and-mouse factor of the script, direction and acting, and the whole atmosphere is probably on par with Fincher's other work, but is there a connection with how Nicholas was and how he does become, or is it all meant for the gimmick?

Still, with this observation, if not quite a criticism, I still recognize this film as being a mile ahead of other films that have come in its wake. Too often do I see a film where a lead character- or characters- get the run-around (so to speak) just for the sake of the script. This time in the Game, the director- by way of the almost TOO convincing performances (that scene between Douglas and Penn in the car & stairs at night had me talking to the screen for the right and wrong reasons)- doesn't insult the audience's expectations. Bottom line, go in with a suspension of disbelief, and it's one of the better elaborate hoaxes put on film in the 90's.
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8/10
David Fincher's The Game gets another fine performance from star Michael Douglas
tavm24 December 2011
Just watched this suspense thriller directed by David Fincher and starring Michael Douglas on HD DVD. Douglas is a broker in San Francisco who's about to have a birthday coming up. His brother Sean Penn gives him a present in the form of a possible membership in a company with the initials C.R.S. I'll stop there and just say that while things get unbelievably ridiculous, one gets curious anyway because of how one just wants see what they would do next. Fine supporting performances by Deborah Kara Unger as "Christine", Armin Mueller-Stahl, and James Rebhorn as someone connected with C.R.S. in more ways than one. Really, all I'll say now is I highly recommend The Game.
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3/10
Don't Fool With this Game-The Game *
edwagreen29 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is far from any birthday present you would ever want to forget. A wealthy investment banker receives a present from his wayward brother, Sean Penn, that is most memorable.

Michael Douglas is the banker who really undergoes a life altering experience being subjected to this game. His life is literally turned upside down with everyone around him in on this sham, and it becomes pretty terrifying at that.

Douglas certainly thinks that he is the victim here and you soon realize why there were early scenes that showed his father's suicide. Could Douglas possibly wind up the same way? This is a creepy, eerie film that makes one think about the order of things. It's nothing more than a scary story with a surprise ending.
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Narrative Shuffling
tedg1 June 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Fincher has discovered a specific technique: to attach a studied noir style to an unexpectedly folded narrative.

In ÒSe7en,Ó the folding was simple. A simple detective story with a deliberate logic, usually means the audience gets it, and the detective does too. The game is to foil the bad guy. Here the bad guy wins, defeating us both. A simple trick.

In ÒFight Club,Ó the fold was much more clever, turning the usually trusted narrative into an inventive fantasy.

This is in between the two in sequence and sophistication. It has the same attachment of style to narrative, which is rare in cinematic vision. But as with Se7en, the effort isnÕt worth it because the narrative folding isnÕt all that profound.

Here we have the triplecross scam which in its final twist is not a scam. The folding is simply the tricking of the viewer in precise lockstep with that of the hapless target, Douglas. Another device is old but still has weight: the actors are playing actors putting on a show, simple self-reference. The pretended love could become real. ÒFrench LieutenantÕs WomanÓ did this so much better.

Fincher is evolving. Eventually he will get around to some truly profound notions of narrative folding, and then his apprenticeship with welding style to narrative will be really effective and worth watching.
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7/10
Worth Watching - But Only Once
Theo Robertson5 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
THE GAME is the type of movie that was very popular at the turn of the century - One that has a great twist in the tail . Unfortunately when the great twist is revealed the film comes crashing down . The producers may claim that that THE GAME is more of a journey than a destination whereby the audience are transported somewhere but the more you think about the plot at the end of the line the more the audience will complain that the journey was a little too contrived to be worth going back on the same route

!!!! SPOILERS !!!! The premise involves " what do you get for the man who has everything " , Nicholas Van Orton has everything we wants in a material world but it's come at a price where he's a lonely middle aged man and you're instantly reminded of Michael Douglas Oscar winning role in WALL STREET as Gordon Gekko . His brother Conrad buys him a birthday gift from Consumer Recreation Services and then all sorts of strange and dangerous things start happening

The problem with the scenario is that when the ending is revealed your suspension of disbelief may not have been suspended enough . The comments pages for this film is full of people pointing out things like " What if Nicholas got mugged in Mexico, or if he jumped off a different part of the building or if he did or didn't contact such and such a person ? he wouldn't have arrived at the ending " and they're right . In fact if you stop to think about it it also means that every single previous customer who used CRS must had a successful time other wise the customer would have sued the company in a multi million pound court case . Are you trying to say all that excitement wouldn't have caused a previous customer to have a heart attack or be seriously injured , perhaps even killed ? Why do you think no one in real life has come up with something like CRS in real life ? That's because of the real life possibility of litigation

I do confess that I'm taking things a little too serious and people will point out that it's only a film and they're right . For most of the running time I found THE GAME rather compelling entertainment similar to TOTAL RECALL without the high body count and sci-fi elements and though everything disintegrates with the revelation I do recommend THE GAME as entertainment mixed in with a redemption plot
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10/10
Game
bevo-1367830 March 2020
I saw this one ages ago. It was pretty good but I forgot most of it
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7/10
Strange, but captivating
Calicodreamin2 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I'll give it this, it's a captivating movie, I was constantly wondering what was going on, what would happen next, and what was real. I was wrong on all accounts, and I kind of like that. The characters were well cast and well acted. The storyline was unique, but left a lot up to "luck". Douglas is a good sport in the end, I would've sucker punched my brother in the face if he had put me through that for a good laugh.
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6/10
Good-looking and exciting thriller ruined by a horrible ending
preppy-319 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Wealthy, uncaring, unfeeling Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is visited on his birthday by his good for nothing brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Conrad gives him a card to join CRS (Consumer Recreation Services) and says it will change his life. Nicholas does call and visit and is given a battery of tests and a physical. Then he is released...and CRS starts out to destroy his life and kill him in the process.

DEFINITE SPOILERS!!!! This movie looks great and is lots of fun...until the stupid ending. Actually there is a big mistake right at the beginning. We're expected to believe that Nicholas would actually agree to all these tests AND a physical. No way. It doesn't fit his character at all. I was able to accept that though. Then at the end, when we find out it was just a big joke, the movie falls to pieces. There is no possible way all of this could have been planned out. Are we supposed to believe the whole city of San Francisco would just go along with everything? Virtually all of the coincidences couldn't have been possibly been set up. Also there are more than a few moments where people could have died! And really--they take him all the way to Mexico, put him in a grave and expect him to come out of there ALIVE??? Come on! The implausibilities in this are just staggering. But it's all OK cause it turns him into a better, more caring person!!!! I got my limits but this movie went WAY over them!

Still I'm giving this a 6 because, for most of its running time, it is exciting, fast-moving and fun. Douglas and Penn are both good and Deborah Kara Unger is excellent as a woman who gets involved in all this. Director Fincher wisely films everything at night or in dark places which just adds to the paranoia of the film. So, I (sort of) recommend it if you can get past the totally stupid ending.
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5/10
You Won...But You Cheated
LeonLouisRicci13 July 2012
This is a very hard movie to like. It is so manipulative that it's hard to suspend disbelief. After it is over you feel that your opponent has won the game, but had to cheat to do it.

It is played out in a back and forth "game" of...they are playing with me and now they are playing against me...no wait, they have played the game and its over and we just don't know it...no wait, maybe...it all just gets to be overwhelming.

It is too clever for its own good and has a few too many plot twists to sustain and it all comes down to an overloaded, bloated, confusing letdown.
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10/10
"The Game" is Game!!!
zardoz-138 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Actor Michael Douglas is one of those rare Hollywood talents who doesn't make a fool o of himself on screen. An excellent judge of movie scripts, he either creates trends as he did with "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct," or catches them before they curdle as with "Romancing the Stone." In British director David Fincher's latest excursion into paranoia, "The Game," Douglas has found not only a choice role for himself but also a provocative thriller that is as cerebral as it is tantalizing. You won't have nightmares from watching "The Game," but you might think twice about that next alcoholic drink somebody else pours for you. Scenarists John Brancato and Michael Ferris have penned an imaginative but mischievous movie that lifts elements from the Yul Brynner chiller "Westworld" (1973) and the 1932 classic adventure epic "The Most Dangerous Game." Neither a science fiction opus nor a gruesome adventure, "The Game" is an enthralling melodrama that keeps you dangling for most of its lengthy running time. If you're one of those moviegoers who strives to stay a step ahead of the hero, "The Game" may frustrate you. Brancato and Ferris serve up a number of obvious clichés and rely on time-proved plot gimmicks. Nevertheless, they have integrated both into the action so seamlessly that you should think before you complain. In "The Game," characterization and motivation ably abet the vicissitudes of a deliberately murky and incredibly far-fetched story. No, "The Game" is not as aggravating as the Mel Gibson, sleight-of-hand thriller "Conspiracy Theory" with Julia Roberts.

Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton. He is a strictly business oriented tycoon who would warm the cockles of Mr. Scrooge's heart. Divorced from his wife, he resides in a dark, tomb-like, palatial mansion with huge, wrought-iron gates. Van Orton's maid (the 1960s' bombshell Carroll Baker of "Baby Doll" fame) dutifully cooks and cleans for him, but their relationship is distant, too. He keeps everybody at arm's length, and his personality is as remote as it is regimented. Van Orton has no qualms about firing an employee on the spot. In sum, Van Orton combines the ruthless characteristics of Douglas' honcho in "Wall Street" with the awkward social graces of Harrison Ford's banker in "Sabrina." Van Orton is not a sympathetic character, so everything that befalls him in "The Game" constitutes a just comeuppance for the shoddy way that he has treated people.

That's part of the fun of "The Game." The Douglas protagonist is an out-and-out bastard. He deserves all the bad luck that he stumbles across, and we get to cheer every obstacle that he encounters because it is going to screw up the carefully preserved life that he has constructed for himself. You don't so much worry about how Van Orton effects his hair-raising escapes in "The Game" as you indulge in the way those cliffhangers challenge him. Van Orton's 48th birthday is creeping up, but he is in no mood to celebrate. In a series of superbly done flashbacks that resemble vintage Super-8 movies, Van Orton relives the suicide plunge that his equally remote father took on his own 48th birthday. Into Van Orton's musty, stale lif34 bursts his black sheep brother played with marvelous abandon by bad boy Sean Penn. It is an amazing coup of casting that works because Conrad is so much Nicholas' opposite in both personality and temperament. Conrad gate-crashes Nicholas' private club and breaks the rules about smoking because his older brother is so highly placed. He presents Nicholas with a belated birthday present. It's a gift certificate from an obscure agency called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS).

Conrad assures Nicholas that "the game" will put the fun back into his humdrum existence. At first, Van Orton is reluctant to contact CRS. Curiosity gets the better of him. When he goes in for an interview, he finds the CRS people are neither deferential nor accommodating. They require him to fill out time-consuming questionnaires and perform various physical skills tests. When they're finished with these grueling tests, they assure him that they'll call him about his evaluation. Miffed at their callous treatment, Nicholas stalks out. Of course, Nicholas qualifies to play the game. What exactly is the game? "The Game" is one of those movies that you only really get to see once. The filmmakers are depending on your own curiosity as much as your frustration with the lengthy setup for the story.

Almost an hour into "The Game," you still aren't totally sure what is happening. It's as if the filmmakers are stalking their audience, delaying their revelations as long as they can to get the most out of both the plot and the audience. If you have the patience for this complicated build-up, you'll be rewarded. If you see "The Game" a second time, you'll appreciate that long build-up because you'll see it coming and its multiple surprises won't catch you as off-guard like they may on first viewing. While credit must be given to both the calculated efforts of writers Brancato and Ferris, director David Fincher probably deserves the lion's share of the success of "The Game." A former music video direction, Finch broke into the movies with "Alien 3" back in 1992.

The performances contribute to the success of "The Game," too. Douglas is perfectly cast as Nicholas Van Orton, and Peen's intermittent appearances are cleverly timed. Deborah Kara Unger of Crash" fame looks as if she could be the next Sharon Stone as the sexy siren who lures Van Orton to his destruction. "The Game" has a haunting quality, and you can't be sure whether the filmmakers are out to scare you or have a joke at your expense. As they used to say in the vintage Patrick McGoohan sci-fi television show "The Prisoner" to say anything more about "The Game" would be "telling."
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6/10
Intriguing, but flawed, thriller
grantss17 May 2015
Intriguing, but flawed, thriller.

The Game relies heavily on a clever plot, and for you to suspend disbelief. The clever plot is maybe too clever for its own good, creating plot holes. Eventually, after the umpteenth twist the whole thing just feels implausible.

This said, it is quite entertaining - a roller-coaster ride of a movie. Very original too.

Solid performance from Michael Douglas in the lead role, in a role that suits him best (ie crime thriller). Good support from Deborah Kara Unger and Sean Penn.
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8/10
The Game was No Laughing Matter
view_and_review18 February 2016
Yesterday I watched a movie that I hadn't seen in 19 years so I decided to watch another movie that I hadn't seen in about as long. Whereas the other movie was worse than I remembered, "The Game" was better than I remembered.

Before the morbid movie "Saw" put chosen people through an orchestrated "game" of sorts there was "The Game". Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy investment banker out of San Francisco. He's arrogant, rude and cutthroat--many of the qualities needed to be a successful businessman--but he's also lonely. On his 48th birthday his brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), gave him a gift of a "game" set up by CRS (Consumer Recreation Services). The "game" was no game at all to Nicholas, it was real.

I liked the fact they made Nicholas realistic. In other words, he wasn't a raging a-hole. They didn't make his character so over the top that you thoroughly hated him. He was a businessman that had standards. He wanted things done a certain way and he expected them done the way he wanted. He never made a scene to humiliate anyone or belittle anyone. He was subtle but his point was made. In that sense we weren't set up for some major conversion ala Scrooge.

The game he got involved in was elaborate. Maybe that would be the only real knock against the movie: just how elaborate the game was. It involved dozens of participants, series of misdirection and even some near death moments. It was so elaborate it bordered on extreme.

Besides that nuance I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed it today just like I did, ahem... years ago.
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