Movie Review: Game Night wins with humor and tension

Game Night is a surprisingly satisfying thriller-comedy with an excellent cast that includes Rachel Adams and Jason Bateman (far right). Courtesy Warner Bros. Game Night is a surprisingly satisfying thriller-comedy with an excellent cast that includes Rachel Adams and Jason Bateman (far right). Courtesy Warner Bros.

Game Night is a funny, exciting thriller-comedy with fun performances and a story that keeps you guessing. Who in the world saw this coming? Certainly not whoever edited the trailer, which sold it as another underwritten yarn with an on-the-nose title about insufferable schmucks who get in over their heads and shout about things seconds after they happen. But that’s not what we get from directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who had previously written hits Horrible Bosses and contributed to the Spider-Man: Homecoming script. Almost immediately, Game Night sets a strikingly unique tone and remains confident in its material not relying on vamping and excessive improvisation from a talented cast.

Game Night
R, 93 minutes
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema

Game Night follows a group of friends who, you guessed it, gather for a regular game night that gets wrapped up in a vast criminal conspiracy. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play married couple Max and Annie, whose relationship is firmly rooted in their shared competitive nature. The arrival of Max’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who Max has never been able to beat in a game, throws him off his edge mentally and physically—his stress, as it turns out, is interfering with the couple’s ability to conceive. Brooks offers to kick things up a notch, promising a murder mystery that blurs the line between reality and fiction. But when the company Brooks hired is hijacked by actual criminals, no one is certain who to trust.

That plot summary sounds predictable, right? It’s possible you may guess a twist or two but you won’t anticipate how effectively it all comes together. To pull off any of the individual genres at play here—comedy, action, crime-thriller—requires a flexible yet confident sense of style, which Game Night has. Think of the slew of action-comedies that limp into theaters every year and are instantly forgotten. The focus is in the wrong place, hoping to slide into your good grace by charisma alone. A confident director with a smart cast can turn a milquetoast gag into a hilarious moment, but the best writing in the world can’t make up for sloppy filmmaking. In Game Night, the direction and editing are taut, the action scenes are legitimately tense and inventive, and the script is hilarious even before it’s elevated by the cast.

The performers deserve special recognition, whether they play into type (Bateman) or against (McAdams, Chandler). Every character is memorable and none are wasted—Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury as a couple that’s been together since childhood (you know the ones), Billy Magnussen and Sharon Horgan as co-workers on a not-date (tough to explain but spectacular to behold) and a scene-stealing turn by Jesse Plemons as creepy neighbor Gary. As individuals they shine, as a group their interplay never gets old.

The jokes land, the action sequences are exciting, and the performers are all terrific, making Game Night the funniest movie in 2018 so far. I’m as surprised as you are.

Playing this week

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056

Annihilation, Black Panther, Early Man, Fifty Shades Freed, Heathers, Peter Rabbit

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

The 15:17 to Paris, Annihilation, Black Panther, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Early Man, Every Day, Fifty Shades Freed, The Greatest Showman, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Peter Rabbit, Phantom Thread, The Post, Samson, The Shape of Water

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown
Mall, 529-3000

2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts, The 15:17 to Paris, Annihilation, Black Panther, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Fifty Shades Freed, I, Tonya, Peter Rabbit, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri