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The Game
Starring Michael Douglas,
Sean Penn and Deborah Kara Unger
Screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Directed by David Fincher


The only goosebumps on the arms of the packed house paying audience that watched The Game with me were caused by the theater air conditioning, which was cranked up to 11.

Brought to you by director David Fincher, who scored big with seven, The Game promises big and delivers little. The television commercial sums it all up -- a mysterious corporation takes control of your life, creating the equivalent of a real-life virtual reality game. And then things go very wrong.

Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is the player, an obscenely rich investment banker who receives "the game" as a birthday present from his little brother Conrad (Sean Penn). How obscenely rich is Nicholas Van Orton? His shoes cost more than Cranky makes in a month. You could fit Cranky's apartment into the guy's kitchen. That's obscenely rich.

But, unlike Douglas' Gordon Gecko character of a couple of years ago, Nicholas has all the personality of an expired package of Twinkies. Conrad is a bit mental and all of their problems can be traced to their father, who abandoned them as kidlets. "The Game" was the greatest experience of his life, and he wants to pass it on. A battery of tests and an insurance waiver later, Nicholas is told to go home and to await the beginning of his game. The opening gun (as it were) featuring retired newsman Daniel Schorr is unique and intriguing and not nearly enough. For Fincher's direction moves the flick along at a pace which would make a snail hit the brakes. That we, as an audience, are not supposed to know what is real and what is the setup is supposed to build tension and provide thrills. It doesn't.

Deborah Kara Unger, last seen in the hopefully wiped from your memories Crash, is Christine, the blonde who guides Nicholas through the game. She may be good. She may be bad. Every word out of her mouth may be a lie or she may be in over her head, desperate to save her own skin. Unger is, of all the players, the only one who is interesting to watch.

By the time you reach the end of the flick -- and there are several of them -- you'll be as bored out of your mind as the entire audience I sat with. All of 'em got up and headed for the door without a sound.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Game, he would have paid . . .



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